News / Science & Technology

    Astronauts Experience Drops of Jupiter, High Flying Hand-off

    Commander Mark Kelly and the STS-134 crew are welcomed aboard the International Space Station by the Expedition 27 crew, May 18, 2011
    Commander Mark Kelly and the STS-134 crew are welcomed aboard the International Space Station by the Expedition 27 crew, May 18, 2011

    NASA's space shuttle Endeavour docked with the International Space Station Wednesday, east of Chile and some 350 kilometers above the Earth. It was flight day three for the Endeavour crew, which lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center Monday. 

    The song the Endeavour crew awoke to on their third flight day was Drops of Jupiter by the band Train, an apt song for people slumbering hundreds of kilometers above the Earth.
    And then the six members of Endeavour got to work - docking with the space station and engaging in a high-flying hand-off. 

    They used Endeavour's robotic arm to transfer a container of spare parts to the space station's robotic arm.  The cargo carrier was then attached to the space station's exterior truss.  Formally known as Express Logistics Carrier-3, the container holds spare hardware for future station use, such as an ammonia tank, a gas tank and other pieces of equipment.

    Back at Johnson Space Center in Houston Wednesday afternoon, NASA's deputy shuttle program manager, LeRoy Cain, updated reporters.

    "The team is doing great," said Cain. "The crew on orbit is doing great.  You can see that the vehicle performance is continuing to be very, very good, which helps us a lot in terms of being able to execute the mission."

    The primary objective of Endeavour's 16-day mission is to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station. The spectrometer, or AMS, is a sophisticated particle detector that will help researchers study the formation of the universe by searching for dark matter and anti-matter. 

    More than 600 people from 56 universities and science organizations in 16 countries worked to create the AMS.

    Cain said astronauts will begin installing the AMS as soon as flight day four begins.
    Also, astronauts will perform four spacewalks during the next two weeks.  NASA says the goal of the spacewalks is to get the International Space Station in the best possible shape before the space shuttle fleet is retired this year.

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