Thursday, June 05, 2008

Astronauts get ready for spacewalk

Another Shuttle/International Space Station story, grabbed off the Internet. I am following Mark Kelly and his crew's time in space. -JAB


HOUSTON (AP) — Both the inside and outside of the international space station's newest room were getting spruced up Thursday. Space shuttle Discovery astronauts Michael Fossum and Ronald Garan Jr. were headed back outside for their second spacewalk in three days to outfit Japan's billion-dollar Kibo lab, which was delivered by the shuttle.

Inside Kibo, the shuttle and space station crews were set to continue outfitting it with more equipment racks so the new lab can be fully brought to life. Some of the racks contain equipment for the lab's power and data needs while others contain scientific experiments.

The door to Kibo — Japanese for hope — was swung open Wednesday, a day after its installation at the international space station. It was a momentous occasion for Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, who hung a banner over the threshold and led the procession inside.

"Enjoy your new module," radioed Japanese Mission Control near Tokyo.

The 10 inhabitants of the linked shuttle Discovery and space station took advantage of all the empty space inside the bus-sized lab and twirled, performed back flips and bounced on the walls. At 37 feet in length, Kibo is the largest of the nine rooms now at the space station. It surpasses the two other labs, belonging to NASA and the European Space Agency, by nine feet and 14 feet, respectively, and an expansion is planned.

The other good news Wednesday was that the space station's toilet finally was working normally again. Russian space station resident Oleg Kononenko put in a new pump that was delivered earlier this week by Discovery, after it was rushed to the launch site from Moscow. Flight controllers gave the go-ahead for the toilet's use once it became apparent it worked.

"We fully expect it's now fixed and we don't have to worry about it anymore," Nelson said.

For two weeks, the three men living aboard the space station had to manually flush the Russian-built toilet with extra water several times a day. It was a time-consuming job and a waste of water, not to mention an unpleasant chore.

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