The U.S. space agency NASA is gearing up for next week's launch of the space shuttle Endeavour on a mission to the International Space Station. The shuttle will service the orbiting scientific outpost and prepare it for an expansion in the spring. VOA's Jessica Berman reports.
Endeavour will blast off on November 14, ferrying almost sixteen thousand kilograms of equipment and supplies to the International Space Station.
During the 15-day mission, astronauts will conduct four space walks, including operations to clean and service machinery that has been jammed for a year and interfered with the operations of the space station's solar panels.
Endeavour's payload will include an extra toilet and sleeping quarters for the space station to expand the living space on the station to support six crew members. Currently, there is enough room for only three astronauts.
Mike Suffredini is the International Space Station's Program Manager.
"And if, in fact, we get to the point where six crew members can't get all of the research done that we want to do, then we will explore the possibility of expanding the crew," said Mike Suffredini.
Suffredini says the expansion means there will more room to accommodate non-U.S. astronauts on the International Space Station. Suffredini says he understands the frustrations other countries must feel about not getting a chance to do research on the orbiting outpost.
"Imagine for a moment that we have an International Space Station in orbit that we've invested in and we don't have any U.S. crews on board," he said. "That's what the partners live with today. So we have agreements to get their crews to orbit based on their percent contribution, very significant contributions by the way. Billions of dollars have been spend by these agencies as well to contribute to the ISS [International Space Station]."
NASA managers hope to have the space station ready for additional astronauts by early next year.