July 11, 2011

Astronauts Unloading Final Cargo From Atlantis

The astronauts aboard the final space shuttle mission got busy on their supply delivery work Monday.

The crew successfully hoisted a giant trunk out of Atlantis and attached it to the International Space Station (ISS).

The 21-foot canister holds over 4 tons of food, clothes and other provisions, which is enough supplies for the ISS for at least another year.

Shuttle astronauts Sandra Magnus and Douglas Hurley used the station's robot arm to hoist the Italian-built chamber out of Atlantis' payload bay on Monday morning.  

The crew moved it into position on the station and bolted it down.

The astronauts plan to open the hatch and enter Rafaello later on Monday, as well as start removing all the trays and bags of supplies.

The crew will spend the next week unloading the contents of Rafaello and filling the chamber back up with packing material, and space station garbage and old equipment.

Lead flight director Kwatsi Alibaruho said the load work by the astronauts will be like an army of ants moving in and out of their anthill.

NASA wants the space station well-stocked for the coming end to the space shuttle program.  

After Atlantis' lands back to Earth, NASA will have to rely on Russia for transportation to the ISS until private companies are able to take over the responsibility.

Two U.S. astronauts aboard the ISS will perform a spacewalk on Tuesday, attempting to retrieve a broken ammonia pump and stash it aboard Atlantis for the return back to Earth next week.

Engineers hope to determine why it failed last year and to avoid future breakdowns in orbit.
NASA said about 130 man-hours have been allocated over the remaining days of the Atlantis to empty the 5,666 pounds of equipment inside Rafaello.


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