November 18, 2008

Work Underway At International Space Station

The first major job for the crew of the space shuttle Endeavour on Monday was hitching a giant shipping crate full of home improvement tools to the International Space Station.

"We're here to work," the space station's skipper, Mike Fincke, called down. "This is the can-do crew."

NASA says more than 14,000 pounds of gear was stuffed into the 21-foot container that flew up on Endeavour and was hoisted onto the space station.

It held an extra toilet, refrigerator and kitchenette, exercise machine and sleeping compartments, and a new recycling system for converting urine into drinking water.

Until all the equipment has been installed and tested NASA cannot double the number of space station residents from three to six.

The space station is currently a one-kitchen, one-bath, three-bedroom house. However, the orbiting outpost is on the verge of becoming a two-kitchen, two-bath, five-bedroom home and will have six full bedrooms in a few more months.

Astronaut Sandra Magnus spent Monday getting used to her new home for the next 3 and 1/2 months; she flew up on Endeavour and promptly traded places with Gregory Chamitoff, who's headed home after a six-month mission.

On Tuesday, two of the shuttle crew are scheduled to venture outside and start the most complicated cleaning and lube job ever attempted in orbit.

One of two massive joints that turn the space station's solar wings toward the sun has been jammed for more than a year due to metal grit from grinding parts.

The crew will squirt some grease onto the joint that's working fine, to prevent any future hang-ups. The work will fill up all four spacewalks.

Mission Control told the shuttle astronauts that nothing of concern had been noted since Friday's launch.

NASA wants to make sure Endeavour is free of any serious damage before giving it the green light for returning home sometime after Thanksgiving.


Image Caption: Space shuttle Endeavour is docked to the International Space Station with the station's Canadarm2 in the foreground. Photo credit: NASA TV


On the Net: