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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Europe's JULES VERNE Automated Transfer Vehicle comes within 36 feet of the International Space Station on March 31, 2008.
NASA TV

THAT'S NO X-WING... The European Space Agency’s newest spacecraft, Jules Verne, successfully came within 36 feet of the International Space Station (ISS) yesterday...paving the way for its inaugural docking with the orbiting complex on Thursday. Jules Verne (officially called the Automated Transfer Vehicle, or ATV) joins the space shuttle and Russia’s Soyuz and Progress capsules as the newest member of the fleet that is the lifeline for the ISS. Europe plans to launch at least 4 more ATV’s over the coming years, with Japan next in line to send its own supply ship, the H-II Transfer Vehicle, to the station by 2009.

An art concept showing Japan's H-II Transfer Vehicle about to be attached to the International Space Station, via Canadarm 2.
JAXA

By the way, I was trying to come up with a good quote from the original Star Wars movie to use as the yellow tagline above. "We’re caught in its tractor beam" was considered, and so was "Ship approaching, ATV-class." Though technically, that second line was adapted from The Empire Strikes Back. Haha.

Europe's JULES VERNE Automated Transfer Vehicle comes within 36 feet of the International Space Station on March 31, 2008.
The JULES VERNE ATV prepares to back away from the International Space Station after coming within 36 feet of the orbiting complex on March 31, 2008.
JULES VERNE orbits more than a thousand feet away from the International Space Station after coming within 36 feet of the orbiting complex on March 31, 2008.
NASA TV