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ISS gets named, temporarily

Thursday November 2 8:41 AM ET
Space Station Gets First Residents 

By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer 

KOROLYOV, Russia (AP) - The first residents of the international space 
station arrived at their new home Thursday, swinging open the doors and 
settling in for a four-month stay.

American astronaut Bill Shepherd, the station's skipper, and Russian 
cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev floated into the space station 
about one and a half hours after their Russian Soyuz capsule docked at 12:21 

Their top priorities inside: flipping on all the lights and alarm systems, 
turning on all the life-support systems and - perhaps most important after 
two days in a cramped capsule with no privacy - getting the toilet working. 
Space shuttle astronauts set up the toilet in September, but left the first 
flush for Shepherd and his crew.

However, they had other immediate business, as well. In a phone call with 
Daniel Goldin, administrator of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space 
Administration, Shepherd said that the crew was doing well but had one 

``The first expedition on the space station requests permission to take the 
radio call sign Alpha,'' Shepherd said, punching the air with his right fist. 
All three men, dressed in identical white jerseys and blue jumpsuits, beamed 
and clasped their hands in a show of unity.

Goldin seemed surprised, but granted temporary permission.

``Now you can sleep well at night and not have any concerns,'' Goldin said.

Alpha has long been the crew's choice for a name for the space station, but 
the U.S. space agency has resisted, instead preferring simply the 
international space station, otherwise known as ISS.

Earlier Thursday, Yuri Semyonov, the head of the state RKK Energiya company, 
which built the space station's Russian modules, said he disapproved of Alpha 
because it signifies the first. For Russians, the 15-year-old Mir space 
station is No. 1. Semyonov suggested Beta or even Mir 2.

But the dispute didn't seem to cloud the euphoric mood back at Russian 
Mission Control, where about 500 people had gathered to monitor the docking 
on Thursday.

The crowd erupted in applause as the capsule linked up smoothly with the 
space station 240 miles above the Central Asian nation of Kazakstan, where 
the crew had blasted off Tuesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. A few of the 
Russian engineers hugged one another.

``Joint efforts always bring the best results. All complex tasks have to be 
solved together,'' said Russian Mission Control chief Vladimir Solovyov.

The launch of the three-man crew generated accolades on all sides. But until 
Thursday's docking, many space officials were hesitant to boast too much or 
too loud.

``This is a huge, huge event,'' said U.S. astronaut Frank Culbertson, who is 
to command a space station mission next year. ``I can't believe after all 
these years we finally are doing what we've been working for so long. It's 
going to take a while, I think, for people to digest the significance of 

``It's a historical, remarkable day. For the first time, countries have 
joined, have pooled their intellects, to create the international space 
station,'' Semyonov said.

The capsule locked onto the station about three minutes earlier than the 
planned 12:24 p.m. docking. Shepherd, Gidzenko and Krikalev had to wait an 
hour and a half before floating inside to make sure the seal between the two 
spacecraft was tight.

The men will spend the next four months living on the space station. Flight 
controllers hope to keep the crew's work schedule light the first few weeks, 
although Krikalev already has battery repairs on tap for Friday.

NASA (news - web sites) expects it will take a while before Shepherd, 
Gidzenko and Krikalev - the so-called Expedition One - feel truly at home. 
They'll be confined to two of the space station's three rooms until space 
shuttle Endeavor arrives in early December with giant solar panels that will 
provide all the necessary power.

It will be a learning experience for everyone involved, said Jeff Hanley, a 
flight director in the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's 
Mission Control in Houston.

``It's essentially a shakedown of the station for living and working in the 
future,'' Hanley said. ``We're really treating Expedition One as a 
verification test flight if you will.''

But Culbertson, who headed the sometimes troubled program that was launched 
in 1995 to link U.S. shuttles with Russia's Mir space station, was more 

He said that the crew's entry into the space station would be ``the beginning 
of an adventure that will go on for a long, long time, with difficulties, 
with challenges. But it's the beginning of a new journey.''

NASA, the Russian Space Agency and the 14 other countries involved in the $60 
billion-plus project have high hopes for the space station. At least 15 years 
of scientific operation are planned, with crews eventually expanding from 
three to seven.

For now, though, Shepherd and company are taking it day by day.

After training nearly five years for this mission in two countries and 
enduring two years of delay because of Russia's ailing economy, Shepherd is 
ready to enjoy himself in orbit, said his wife, Beth Stringham-Shepherd.

``This will definitely be the fun part,'' she said.
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