June 12, 2009

ISS Will Soon Be Home To Largest Crew In History

The International Space Station is about to house more astronauts than ever before.

For the first time in its history, the orbiting outpost will temporarily become home to 13 astronauts upon the arrival of space shuttle Endeavour's seven-member crew.

Endeavour is set to launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Saturday at 7:17 am EDT (1117 GMT).

"We're in really good shape to fly," said Mike Moses, chairman of the mission management team on Thursday.

The Endeavour crew is expected to complete upgrade tasks on the ISS, including finalizing work on the Japanese laboratory Kibo during their 16-day mission.

"That is our No. 1 mission objective, to get it out of the payload bay and successfully, permanently installed on the space station," said space station Flight Director Holly Ridings.

The crew will also be carrying a payload full of spare equipment as well as an unpressurized storage area to hold experiments that have been exposed to space.

Astronauts are expected to install a permanent platform to the Kibo lab over the course of five spacewalks intended to last about 32.5 hours.

"This is one of the most interactively complex flights I have ever seen put together," said Flight Director Paul Dye. "It's an amazing piece of work."

Endeavour's launch will mark 500 people having ventured into space. It will also be the first time that two Canadians -- shuttle astronaut Julie Payette and station astronaut Robert Thirsk -- have been in space at the same time.

"Today we make a big deal about two Canadians in space, the 500th person in space and so on and so forth," Payette told CNN. "And maybe in some distant future, we're gonna look back and stop counting that kind of thing because it will be normal for human beings to be in space, to live in space."


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