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"Atlantis' links up with space station

Speeding together at 17,500 mph, the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis and Russian space station Mir linked up Thursday, creating the largest single spacecraft ever to orbit Earth and boosting plans for an international space station to begin in 1997.

Although he traveled hundreds of thousands of miles to get there, Altantis commander Robert "Hoot" Gibson was off a mere 2 seconds, and seven-tenths of an inch.

The seven U.S. and Russian crew members on the Atlantis looked out their windows to see the Mir crew _ two Russians and one U.S. astronaut _ bobbing upside down and flashing huge grins, waving out the windows like kids in a family station wagon on their way to the beach.

And 245 miles below, mission controllers in Houston and Kaliningrad cheered and applauded.

NASA chief Daniel Goldin, watching from Kaliningrad, said it was "a dream come true."

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