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International Space Station's 'Room with a View' in Place

  • Suzanne Presto

In the grasp of Canadarm2, the cupola is relocated from the forward port to the Earth-facing port of the International Space Station's newly-installed Tranquility node, 15 Feb 2010

In the grasp of Canadarm2, the cupola is relocated from the forward port to the Earth-facing port of the International Space Station's newly-installed Tranquility node, 15 Feb 2010

Astronauts have managed to move the International Space Station's so-called "room with a view" into position. NASA officials say the astronauts had to grapple with a series of challenges to get the job done.

The Tranquility module is the last major component to be added to the International Space Station. Attached to Tranquility is a cupola with six windows around its sides and another in the center. NASA says this "room with a view" will provide panoramic scenes of Earth and objects in space.

But the picture was not so serene on Monday. Astronauts battled with stuck bolts as they worked to relocate the dome from Tranquility's forward side to its earth-facing side.

Kwatsi Alibaruho is the mission's flight director at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. He says the bolts that attached the cupola to its launch position had been attached in Earth's gravity and were tighter than expected.

"It is analogous to a situation where if you have a piece of equipment or something from the manufacturer that has screws or bolts in it," said Kwatsi Alibaruho. "They tend to be bolted down fairly tight."

Alibaruho says that by using the station's robotic arm, the astronauts managed to loosen the bolts and move the 2 meter by 1.5 meter cupola to its permanent position on the Tranquility node, also known as node three.

"I think seeing the cupola successfully relocated to the deck side of node three was a very sweet victory and again the latest of a series of victories that we have experienced on this mission," said Alibaruho. "And I know it was very exciting for everybody, although it was a hard fought victory to be sure."

The stuck bolts were not the only challenge. One of the astronauts experienced intermittent communications drop-outs during the spacewalk. NASA says another spacesuit is being reconfigured for the mission's third and final spacewalk, scheduled for Tuesday.

Flight Director Alibaruho says he expects the cupola's shutters to be opened after that spacewalk. He says the first video or still images from the cupola might might be available on Wednesday or Thursday.

"The cupola, I think, is really one the most spectacular viewing platforms that we will have had in space like this, where you can get a good panoramic view," he said. "So we are eagerly awaiting the release of the shutters and the first views from it once we are able to open those shutters."

The main goal of the space shuttle Endeavour's 13-day mission was to deliver and install Tranquility and its cupola. Shuttle astronauts are expected to return in about a week.

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