Friday, February 12, 2010

Astronauts unite Tranquility with the Space Station

(Updated at 1:25 am) -- Astronauts aboard the International Space Station spent overnight Thursday delivering and docking a new module which will greatly expand the living quarters of the orbital outpost in space.

While two spacewalking astronauts untethered the Tranquility node module from the payload bay of Endeavour, the crew inside the station worked its robotic arm to slowly lift the module from the bay and transitioned over to the Unity module on the station.

Tranquility is a pressurized cylindrical module with an internal width of nearly 16-feet and a length of 23 feet. It will serve as expanded living quarters for the crew.

Astronauts Robert Behnken and Nicholas Patrick switched their space suits onto internal power thus beginning their spacewalk at 9:17 pm EST this evening. They then left the Quest airlock to begin the first of three planned spacewalks of the STS-130 mission.

At 11:10 pm EST, astronaut Kay Hire began first motion in removing the Tranquility node from Endeavour's payload bay. Slowly and carefully lifting the module up and out over the shuttle's wing, the arm carried it over toward the Unity.

By midnight, the spacewalkers were nearly one hour ahead of their time line.

An hour later, at 1:04 am, Hire announced that the first stage of latching four bolts of Tranquility into Unity's left side port was complete.

Meanwhile, as one end of Tranquility was bolted to the station, the other end had the cupola dome temporarily docked. The cupola is a seven-window dome section which will give the station crew an out of this world 360-degree view of our universe. The cupola will be attached to the side of Tranquility with the help of the station's robotic arm on Sunday night.

Then at 1:20 am, Hire announced that the second series of 16 bolts had completely secured Tranquility to Unity as the orbital complex flew 217 miles over the west coast of Singapore.

The next task was for
Behnken and Patrick to begin installing power and avionics cables between Unity and the new module.

On Friday night at about 9:14 pm, the crews will open the hatches from Unity into Tranquility and set foot inside a cold, dark school bus size module. The crew will enter wearing a miners headlight for better visibility as the work to get lighting turned on.

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