Monday, February 15, 2010

Cupola Observation Module installed on Node

A newly arrived observation platform known as cupola was positioned upon the Tranquility node this morning giving the crew aboard the International Space Station an out of this world view of the earth and beyond.

Astronauts Kay Hire and Terry Virts moved the station's 58-foot robotic arm over to and grappled cupola at 10:22 pm EST, on Sunday night. The grapple came later than planned following a few delays in depressurizing the domed structure.

A series of bolts would not release a half-hour later to allow for it's release. The crew worked with the ground to get those bolts unjammed.

Space station commander Jeffery Williams then called over to Hire and his crew, "We're go for cupola de-berth."

Once the bolts released the cupola from the end of newly installed Tranquility node, Hire began the nearly one hour short move at 12:25 am today to relocate cupola to the nadir side of Tanquility.

Sporting a thermal white jacket, the cupola was attached and firmly bolted down to its new port on the earth-facing side of Tranquility at 1:31 am. Four latches and then 16 bolts are used to secure this soon to be pressurized section to the node.

Endeavour's commander George Zamka radioed Mission Control today, "This is the payoff, it all went very smoothly today. The cupola's been an idea that's been around since the early '90s and we got it home".

The 1.6 ton cupola observation module is a pressurized work station in which station crew members will use to perform photography and studies of the earth. They will also use it to track approaching spacecrafts.

What exact does cupola mean? -- CUPOLA: noun: 1. Architecture a. A vaulted roof or ceiling. b. A small dome set on a circular or polygonal base or resting on pillars. c. A domelike structure surmounting a roof or dome, often used as a lookout or to admit light and air.

The cupola has six trapezoidal windows around its diameter, and one large 31 1/2-inch window on top. And like most homes here on earth, the cupola's windows do have shutters.

Prior to bed time, the space station crew will close the external shutters from inside the observation module. According to NASA, the "shutters are closed to protect the glass from micrometeoroids and orbital debris and to prevent solar radiation from heating up the Cupola or to avoid losing heat to space".

A Tuesday evening spacewalk will remove the seven protective insulation window covers from around cupola.

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