Space station opens to Tranquility and its picture window

February 13th, 2010 - 11:00 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 13 (DPA) Astronauts Saturday opened the hatch to the space station’s newest room - the Italian-built Tranquility node that will eventually offer a six-sided picture window on space.
NASA television showed the space station and Endeavour shuttle astronauts moving around the opened hatch, through which they installed an airflow system and exercise equipment into the new room. They were also taking dust samples from Tranquility.

International Space Station commander Jeff Williams opened the hatch into Tranquility at 0217 GMT Saturday, entering it for the first time with Endeavour shuttle commander George Zamka and astronaut Stephen Robinson.

The hatch into the cupola was scheduled to be opened at 0344 GMT.

Endeavour could extend its stay at the station by a day, to Feb 22, to help install the station’s second treadmill in Tranquility and perform other tasks, a NASA TV commentator said.

Tranquility, which was attached to the outside of the station during a six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk that ended early Friday morning, provides yet another room for the newly expanded six-member team resident at the station at any one time.

Its addition symbolises the pending end of the shuttle programme later this year, with the heavy-lifting, ageing US spacecraft having nearly completed their task of finishing construction of the station.

Tranquility was carried up by the Endeavour shuttle in Monday’s launch. Its six-windowed bubble will allow astronauts to operate robotic controls and get a 360-degree view, like a crane operator sitting in a cabin.

It is the largest window ever flown into space and is made of specially equipped glass that protects the crew from solar radiation. The view will allow scientific observations and provide long-term astronauts with a much-need glimpse of home.

Two later spacewalks will complete Tranquility’s hook-up with the station and get it fully functional, with the next set for 0209 GMT Sunday. Spacewalkers Robert Behnken and Nicholas Patrick were preparing a new spacesuit for Patrick for the Sunday morning spacewalk, after his cooling fan did not function properly in the first spacewalk, NASA said.

Since arriving Wednesday at the ISS, the Endeavour crew has done further repair work on a faulty piece of equipment designed to turn urine into drinkable water.

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