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Astronauts test Japanese robotic arm

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) June 9, 2008
Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide put the robotic arm of the Japanese Kibo module through its paces Monday before stowing it away, as the shuttle Discovery crew completed its mission at the International Space Station.

Hoshide extended the 10.06-meter (33-foot) metallic arm and tested all its six joints as engineers monitored its every move from the Kibo control center in Tokyo.

The robotic arm will be used to handle experiments in the cold vacuum of space once the third and final element of the Kibo laboratory, an exterior 'balcony' called the "Exposed Facility," will be delivered by another shuttle in March 2009.

Kibo -- "Hope" in Japanese -- marks a huge advance in Japan's participation in the ISS, which already has units from NASA and the Russian and European space agencies, and key equipment from Canada as well.

The 11.2-meter (36.7-feet) long, 4.4-meter (14.4-foot) wide cylindrical module, with room for four astronauts to do research, is now the ISS's biggest single room.

The Kibo, its robotic arm and a storage module that had been delivered in an earlier shuttle mission, were all attached to the ISS during three spacewalks by the seven Discovery astronauts and their three colleagues on the ISS.

The facility will be jointly monitored from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Tsukuba facility and NASA Mission Control in Houston, Texas.

The US space agency, which hopes to complete construction of the ISS in 2010, considers the station a central part of space exploration ambitions, allowing scientists to study the effects of microgravity on humans.

The seven Discovery astronauts will conduct other odd jobs before bidding farewell to the three ISS crew members on Tuesday and undocking from the space station on Wednesday at 1142 GMT.

The shuttle, which spent 10 days of its 14-day mission attached to the ISS, is set to return to the Kennedy Space Center on June 14 at 1513 GMT.

Discovery astronaut Gregory Chamitoff will remain on the ISS for the next six months after replacing Garrett Reisman, who will return to Earth after a three month stint on the orbiting outpost.

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Russia Eyeing New Launch Services Deal With US
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Jun 09, 2008
Russia and the United States are expected to announce a preliminary deal on Russian transport services to the International Space Station for the U.S. Russian space specialists are currently in Houston to discuss contracts for 2011-2013, Mark Bowman, the manager of NASA'S Moscow Technical Liaison Office, said after the U.S. Discovery shuttle's launch to the ISS on Monday.

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