May 29, 1999. The space shuttle Discovery became the first in the shuttle fleet to dock with the with the International Space Station (ISS) on today’s date in 1999. The ISS – today described by American prime contractor Boeing as the “largest, most complex scientific project ever undertaken” – spanned the size of a football field when it was completed in 2011. In 1999, though, the station consisted of only two bare modules, called Zarya and Unity. One of major tasks of the shuttle Discovery’s crew was to transfer more than 1.5 tons of equipment to the inside of ISS.
Additionally, shuttle astronauts undertook what was then the second-longest spacewalk ever performed. While outside for seven hours and 55 minutes, Tamara E. Jernigan and Daniel T. Barry attached two cranes to the station and put out foot restraints for future astronauts to secure themselves during spacewalks.
Although shuttles docked routinely with ISS after that, NASA did not release a photo of a shuttle-ISS docking until 2011. In May of that year, space shuttle Endeavour was docked at the ISS, when the Soyuz TMA-20 left it. Crew member Paolo Nespoli snapped a shot from an altitude of approximately 200 miles (300 km) as he and Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev and NASA astronaut Cady Coleman headed back to Earth. That image is below.
Bottom line: The space shuttle Discovery was the first shuttle to dock with the International Space Station, on May 29, 1999. The space shuttle Endeavour was the first to have its image captured in space while docked to ISS, in 2011.
Elizabeth Howell is an award-winning Canadian journalist who can't stop talking about space and science. As a teenager, she saw the movie Apollo 13 and wanted to be an astronaut. That hasn't happened - yet - but at least she gets to write about them. Elizabeth's favourite career moments so far include attending three shuttle launches, and legitimately writing the word "snot" into a Mars Curiosity story. Besides EarthSky, you can read Elizabeth's work in SPACE.com, Universe Today, SEN.com, All About Space and other fun places. Elizabeth's space obsession extends to her hobbies; she's a big fan of Battlestar: Galactica and has met all five TV Star Trek captains. She even visited Captain Kirk's future birthplace in small-town Iowa.