Thursday, April 08, 2010

"Moving van" parked on space station

The Leonardo cargo module is securely attached to the International Space Station, completing a move from the rear of shuttle Discovery's payload bay that began late Wednesday.

Discovery astronauts Stephanie Wilson and Naoko Yamazaki moved the module known as a "moving van" into position on the Harmony module's Earth-facing port with the station's robotic arm.

A series of latches then locked to officially complete the installation at 12:24 a.m. EDT, as the joined station and shuttle flew 220 miles above the South Pacific Ocean north of New Zealand.

Leonardo's successful relocation sets the stage for crew members to open its hatch around 8 a.m. today and begin more than a week of work to unload 17,000 pounds of equipment and supplies packed into 16 refrigerator-sized racks.

Thousands more pounds of gear will be repacked into the module for return to Earth.

In all, about 100 hours of Discovery mission crew time is devoted to the unpacking and packing of the module, an activity known as "transfer" in NASA mission jargon.

While that work was in progress, Discovery mission specialists Clay Anderson and Rick Mastracchio have been working in the Quest airlock to prepare for the mission's first of three planned spacewalks early Friday.

Discovery's seven-person crew is scheduled to go to sleep at 12:51 p.m. today, about a half-hour after the six station residents.

Anderson and Mastracchio will sleep in the airlock at a reduced air pressure of 10.2 psi as part of a standard "campout" procedure that helps spacewalkers avoid decompression sickness.

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