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Astronauts enter space station

Space shuttle Atlantis' astronauts floated into the international space station Monday night to replace dying batteries, filling the complex with voices for the first time in a year.

American astronaut Susan Helms and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Usachev led the way into the Unity module. James Voss was close behind.

"Glad you left the lights on for us," Voss told Mission Control.

The three will move into the space station for real next year. They consider this visit a brief but valuable sneak preview.

Upon entering the station from the joined shuttle, the seven crew members took air samples and checked the carbon dioxide level to make sure it was safe. They carried masks, but did not need them. Everything tested fine, although the temperature was in the 80s, prompting one astronaut to strip down to his socks and shorts.

Minutes after cracking open Unity, Helms and Usachev unsealed the hatch leading into the Russian control module, named Zarya, or Sunrise. They quickly began removing the first of four bad batteries.

Since NASA's last station visit last spring, Russian-made batteries have been conking out one by one, the result of careless overcharging. Only two of the six batteries work properly. The four bad ones will be replaced to restore full power to the space station.

Because of the racket from equipment in the Russian module, the astronauts planned to wear ear plugs while working there. And they had small, personal fans to prevent exhaled carbon dioxide from pooling around their heads.

MARS IMAGES: NASA has made more than 20,000 images of Mars available as a Web-based photo album. The pictures taken by the orbiting Mars Global Surveyor constitute the single largest one-time release of images for any planet in the history of solar system exploration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said Monday.

The archive covers one Mars year, 687 Earth days, beginning in September 1997 and extending through August 1999.

The archive can be found at: mocgallery/index.html