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Shuttle Astronauts Finish Work on Space Station


Astronauts from the U.S. space shuttle Discovery have finished their final jobs on the International Space Station, and held a news conference from space. VOA's Kent Klein reports from Washington.

The Discovery astronauts Monday flexed the robotic arm that is part of the Japanese science laboratory they helped to install on the space station. They also opened a new storage area.

These were among the final tasks on the space station for the astronauts who will leave the station on Wednesday.

Afterward, the astronauts spoke with reporters on a video link. Discovery commander Mark Kelly said he was pleased by how smooth the construction mission has been. "Overall, the mission has been a great success. I certainly have a great crew who is well-trained, but also a little bit of luck is always involved in this."

The $1 billion Japanese lab, called Kibo, includes an arm that will be used to handle outdoor science experiments after the final section of the lab is installed next year. On Monday, the arm was extended to its full 10 meters with all six joints tested, then folded into a resting position.

Later, during the news conference, mission specialist Ron Garan talked about the view from space during his three spacewalks.

"When I looked out greater than 180 degrees, all I saw was the curvature of the Earth. And so, what it appeared to me, as opposed to just looking down and seeing the Earth, I was looking and seeing a planet, just hanging out there in the blackness of the space, and it was just absolutely incredible, just to see the views and the sunrises and the sunsets," he said.

Astronaut Garrett Reisman will be leaving the International Space Station after three months. He told reporters he is looking forward to returning to Earth and seeing his wife and eating his favorite foods. But he says the first obstacle will be to adjust to gravity. "Just being back to gravity is not so easy, just like adjusting to weightlessness takes some time, adjusting to gravity takes some time, too. Even though I have visions of stepping off this shuttle and chowing down on a giant T-bone steak or something, that is not going to happen," he said.

Reisman's replacement on the space station will be Gregory Chamitoff, whose mission will be six months--twice as long as Reisman's.

Discovery is set to land on Saturday.