Saturday, February 13, 2010

Astronauts open newly install Tranquility Module

The hatches leading into a new living compartment on board the International Space Station was opened tonight providing the crew an expanded area to exercise and live as earth's orbital outpost sails toward 2020.

Space station commander Jeffery Williams opened the hatches leading from the Unity module into the newly installed Tranquility node at 9:17 pm EST, and floated in along with space shuttle Endeavour's commander George Zamka, as the station flew 217 miles high over the Pacific Ocean just east of Australia.

The Italian-built Tranquility will serve as a U.S. section of the station, and will be the final American section added to the now 98% completed outpost.

Two hours later, the crews opened the hatch between the tranquility and the cuploa dome section - currently located on the opposite end of Tranquility's docked port.

The cupola will be a wonderful segment for the station crews. It is a dome segment with seven windows providing a 360-degree field of the earth and the space around the orbital complex. This will allow astronauts to have views of approaching spacecraft, orbital observations of both the earth and star fields, and give them a truley out of this world view.

Currently, station crew members use small port windows which measure about a foot across.

As Endeavour hangs docked to the space station, the total weight of the complex is now 1,011,500 pounds -- passing the 1 million pound mark for the first time this week.

Also tonight, Endeavour's protective thermal tiles were cleared for landing.

NASA's Mission Management Team chairman LeRoy Cain stated tonight, "The team has completed their analyses. We determined that Endeavour is cleared for entry. All the TPS is cleared and the vehicle is safe for deorbit, re-entry and landing."

Later tonight, Endeavour astronauts Robert Behnken and Nicholas Patrick will begin preparing for the start of the second planned spacewalk. They first will prepare a new space suit for Patrick after it was noted that the cooling fan on his suit did not work properly during Thursday night's spacewalk.

Endeavour's crew of six docked last Wednesday at midnight EST to the station, and will carry out two more spacewalks and will reposition the cupola to a new location on later tonight so that it faces earth.

Endeavour's Kay Hire will use the station's long robotic arm to grapple and slowly lift the cupola section several feet to the middle section of Tranquility. This will provide crews an improved view for earth observations.

Pilot Terry Virts and mission specialist Stephen Robinson round out Endeavour's crew.

The crews will begin their sleep period later this morning at 7:44 am, and awake eight hours later to begin a busy spacewalking day.

Endeavour is expected to undock this Thursday evening at 7:35 pm.

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