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Shuttle Endeavour docks with space station

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The space shuttle Endeavour and its six astronauts arrived at the International Space Station on Tuesday, carrying the station’s last two main components.

After lighting up the sky in a predawn launch from its Florida space port on Monday, Endeavour spent most of Tuesday closing in on the station, 215 miles above the Earth.

“Tally ho, you’re looking very good back there,” said Jeffrey Williams, one of five of the station’s residents.

“We’ll be there soon,” said mission specialist Kay Hire.

Commander George Zamka nudged Endeavour into its berth at 11:06 p.m. CST (0506 GMT), as the station soared above the Atlantic Ocean, west of Portugal.

The shuttle carries the station’s last connecting hub and a dome-shaped cupola with seven windows to provide the crew with panoramic views outside the station. Endeavour’s crew is to install them during three spacewalks during its nine-day station stay.

The modules were built in Italy for NASA and will complete U.S. assembly of the orbital outpost, a $100 billion project of 16 nations that has been under construction since 1998.

Four more shuttle missions remain to deliver cargo platforms, spare parts and experiments before the fleet is retired later this year. Monday’s launch was the last scheduled to take place in the dark.

There currently are no U.S. vehicles to replace the shuttles, which began flying in 1981. For the near future, NASA is buying rides to the space station from Russia, which charges $50 million per seat on its Soyuz capsules.

Editing by Sandra Maler

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