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After Endeavour-ISS link-up, astronauts prepare for spacewalk

The Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module attached to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA TV
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Nov 17, 2008
Astronauts aboard the US space shuttle Endeavour and International Space Station on Monday prepared for their first spacewalk of the mission after the two spacecraft linked up 223 miles (360 kilometers) above the South Pacific Ocean.

Endeavour docked at the ISS on Sunday almost 48 hours into its 15-day mission to expand the living quarters of the orbiting space station.

"Welcome Endeavour ... we understand that this house is in need of an extreme makeover and that you are the crew to do it. We're really glad to see you ... Welcome to space," ISS commander Mike Fincke told the seven arriving Endeavour astronauts in a welcoming ceremony.

Before the two craft linked up, the Endeavour, piloted by commander Chris Ferguson, performed a backflip so astronauts aboard the station could photograph its heat shield for closer analysis.

On Saturday, crew members used the shuttle's robotic arm and an attached boom extension to check the spacecraft's underside, nose cap and leading edges of the wings as well as hard to reach surfaces.

After looking at images coming from cameras on the ground, NASA engineers thought they saw a piece of insulation fly off from the rear of the shuttle. But the images transmitted Saturday by Endeavour astronauts during their routine inspection appeared to show nothing dramatic.

The task of the Endeavour crew will be to repair the station's power-generating solar arrays and expand its living quarters to accommodate bigger crews.

"This mission is all about home improvement," Ferguson said last week during launch preparations. "Home improvement inside and outside the station."

It will be the most extreme home makeover ever attempted by NASA astronauts. The additions will include two new sleeping quarters, exercise equipment, a second toilet, two new ovens to heat food, a refrigerator for food and drinks, a freezer and an oven for scientific experiments.

Endeavour is carrying 14.5 tonnes of material and equipment to the Italian module Leonardo, allowing for the ISS crew to expand from three to six in 2009.

As one NASA expert described it, the upgrades will effectively turn the ISS into "a five-bedroom two-bath house with a kitchen, and support six residents on a continuing basis."

The astronauts also will be installing a system that can turn urine back into drinking water. The 250-million-dollar upgrade will allow enough recycling for a six-person ISS crew to sharply reduce the amount of water that has to be flown up from Earth.

Four planned spacewalks during the mission will focus on servicing the station's solar wings, mainly the large joints that allow the apparatus to rotate to track the sun.

The first spacewalk is set to begin on Tuesday.

The 27th shuttle flight to the orbiting space station and the fourth and final shuttle mission for 2008 consists of a crew of five men and two women, all Americans.

While docked to the ISS, the Endeavour astronauts and the three-man ISS crew will mark the 10th anniversary of the ISS, a multi-billion-dollar collaborative effort between the space agencies of Canada, Europe, Japan, Russia and the United States.

Endeavour's crew includes commander Ferguson, 47, co-pilot Eric Boe, 44, and five other mission specialists including Sandra Magnus, 44.

She will replace compatriot Greg Chamitoff as ISS Expedition 18 flight engineer. Chamitoff is scheduled to return to Earth on Endeavour in late November while Magnus is to stay on through February 2009.

Endeavour's mission is scheduled to end November 29, though NASA has said the flight could well be extended a day.

The Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module has been attached to the space station. Inside the MPLM are systems to be installed in the U.S. Destiny lab and Harmony node, such as: two water recovery systems racks for recycling urine into potable water, a second toilet system, new galley components, two new food warmers, a food refrigerator, an experiment freezer, a combustion science experiment rack, two separate sleeping quarters and a resistance exercise device.

The STS-126 and Expedition 18 crew members will spend the day installing the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module on the International Space Station and preparing for the first spacewalk of the mission. Mission Specialists Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper and Steve Bowen are scheduled to perform that spacewalk Tuesday.

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Shuttle crew to outfit living quarters on space station
Washington (AFP) Nov 11, 2008
The shuttle Endeavour is set to lift off on Friday with seven astronauts who plan to make repairs to the International Space Station and expand its living quarters for bigger crews.

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