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Space Station’s Largest Lab Gets Second Room

June 6, 2008

HOUSTON — The
International Space Station’s (ISS) giant Japanese laboratory got a second room
Friday after astronauts attached its attic-like storage room.

Wielding
the space station’s robotic arm, astronauts plucked the small storage room from
a temporary berth and stuck it atop its permanent home on the roof of Japan’s
new tour bus-sized Kibo laboratory.

“Good job,”
said Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide after his crewmate, NASA astronaut
Karen Nyberg, eased the storage room into place at about 3:58 p.m. EDT (1958
GMT). Hoshide and station flight engineer Greg Chamitoff locked the spare Kibo
room in place
a few minutes later.

The storage
room, known as the Japanese Logistics Module, is a squat cylinder about 14.4
feet (4.4 meters) wide designed to hold spare parts, experiments and other
equipment for Japan’s $1 billion main Kibo lab. It arrived last March to await
its parent module.

Discovery shuttle
astronauts delivered the 37-foot (11 meter) Kibo laboratory earlier this week,
then bounced off its curved walls in an ad
hoc opening ceremony
before filling it with phone booth-sized equipment
racks.

“It’s
awesome to enter a completely new module,” station commander Sergei Volkov told
reporters Friday during a series of televised interviews. “It’s very
impressive.”

While it may
not that new car smell, Discovery’s commander Mark Kelly – who has called the
Kibo laboratory the “Lexus
of station modules
” – said Friday that giant room does have a “new car
feel.”

“It’s
incredibly big,” Kelly said in the interviews. “A lot of room, you have to be
extra careful. You can get out in the middle and you can’t reach a handrail,
and you can get kind of stuck there for a while.”

Japan’s
Kibo lab is the third new room for the space station this year and the third
research laboratory to be installed at the orbiting outpost. The European Columbus
laboratory arrived in February to join NASA’s U.S. Destiny laboratory already
aboard the station.

Russia’s
Zarya control and Zvezda service modules, and two airlocks, round out the
station’s main rooms, which are connected by berthing points or smaller connecting
nodes.

But the 32,000-pound
(14,514-kg) Kibo lab is the largest of the station’s orbital rooms and is still
incomplete. A porch-like exterior platform is slated to launch aboard a NASA
space shuttle next year to be attached to the end of the module, which sports
two windows, a small airlock and a robotic arm to manipulate external
experiments. A smaller arm will also arrive with the new platform.

Astronauts also planned
to power up Kibo’s main 33-foot (10-meter) robotic arm today to prepare for its
first checkouts tomorrow. A spacewalk, the third of Discovery’s
STS-124 mission
, is on tap for Sunday to replace an empty nitrogen tank for
the station’s cooling system.

“We’re
going to make some pretty interesting scientific discoveries,” Kelly said of
the Kibo lab, adding that with a larger space comes more room for science. “It’s
a big deal not only for Japan, the United States and Russia and the European
partners and Canadians, but I think it’s a big deal for everybody on the
planet.”

NASA is broadcasting the planned launch of Discovery’s STS-124 mission live on
NASA TV on Saturday. Click here
for SPACE.com’s shuttle mission updates and NASA TV feed.

 


Source: imaginova



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