BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Science/Nature  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Sunday, 29 April, 2001, 03:54 GMT 04:54 UK
Space station repairs 'complete'
The shuttle's robot arm (right) reaches out to grasp the crate held by the station's arm
An unprecedented robotic handshake in space
The United States space agency, Nasa, says a manoeuvre using the International Space Station's robotic arm, delayed because of computer failure, has now been carried out.

The successful operation, described as an unprecedented robotic handshake, means it is now likely that the Russian mission Soyuz, carrying the first space tourist, will be able to dock at the station on Monday as scheduled.

Dennis Tito (centre) with cosmonauts Talgat Musabayev, top, and Yuri Baturin
A farewell wave from the crew as they enter the Soyuz craft
Sixty-year-old American businessman Dennis Tito and two Russian cosmonauts blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Saturday, after much disagreement between Russia and the US.

Russia finally agreed to delay the docking if the American shuttle Endeavour was still at the station, because of fears of collision or radio interference.

Now that the station's new robot arm has handed a 1.5-tonne packaging crate to Endeavour's robot arm - the most complicated robotic feat ever attempted in space, according to Nasa - the shuttle could start the journey back to Earth on Sunday.

All that remains is to ensure the computer systems are working well, says Nasa.

If they are not, the Soyuz rocket will have to continue orbiting the Earth.

Before blast-off on Saturday, television pictures showed Mr Tito and cosmonauts Talgat Musabayev and Yury Baturin looking relaxed.

Soyuz rocket blasting off
The launch went ahead on schedule
When Mr Tito - wearing a white spacesuit decorated with an American flag on his shoulder - was asked how he felt by ground control he replied in Russian: "Khorosho" - "great".

Mr Tito is reported to have paid the Russians $20m for the privilege of being the first space tourist.

The money is desperately needed by the Russian Space Agency - its budget is only a 20th of that of Nasa.

The head of the agency, Yuri Koptev, said that negotiations with a second tourist were "under way".

He would not say who the person was, although the American newspaper USA Today identified the man as the Oscar-winning film director James Cameron.

Endeavour, seen from the space station
Endeavour could undock on Sunday
It was only in the days before take-off that Nasa finally lifted objections to Mr Tito's trip, having expressed fears that his presence could jeopardise the safety of the ISS.

But Russia insisted Mr Tito, a former rocket engineer, received the equivalent of a professional cosmonaut's training.

The main task of the eight-day Soyuz mission is to replace the Soyuz escape craft currrently docked with the ISS for a new one.

The BBC's Jacky Rowland in Moscow reports
"The first space tourist heads for the stars"'s Yuri Karach
"So far it has been a total success"
Nasa spokesman John Ira Petty
"We'd expect him not to be involved in any of the operations of the station"
International Space Station




Space tourism
Would you travel to the outer limits?
See also:

27 Apr 01 | Science/Nature
27 Apr 01 | Science/Nature
27 Apr 01 | Science/Nature
24 Apr 01 | Science/Nature
22 Apr 01 | Science/Nature
02 Nov 00 | Science/Nature
27 Apr 01 | Science/Nature
28 Apr 01 | Science/Nature
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Science/Nature stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Science/Nature stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |