Monday, March 28, 2011

Japanese Stork Flies Away From Station

A robotic Japanese cargo carrier that doubles as a garbage scow is making its way toward a destructive atmospheric reentry after a high-flying departure from the International Space Station today.

U.S. astronaut Cady Coleman and Paulo Nespoli of the European Space Agency released the cylindrical carrier from the end of the station's Canadian-made robotic arm at 11:46 p.m. as the two spacecraft flew high above the eastern seaboard of the U.S.

Remotely controlled from a space center north of Tokyo, Japan's second HTV cargo carrier fired two separate bursts from onboard thrusters to propel the vehicle away from the station's immediate vicinity.

A series of additional thruster firings will put the White Stork spacecraft on course for a reentry over the Pacific Ocean around 11:09 p.m. Tuesday.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched its second HTV cargo carrier in late January. The vehicle hauled four tons of supplies and equipment to the station and then was loaded up with 3,100 pounds of trash prior to its departure from the outpost. The trash and the vehicle will burn up in the atmosphere.

The departure of the HTV-2 represented the first major operation carried out at the Japanese Mission Control Center north of Tokyo since it was damaged during the March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated Japan.

Flight controllers in the U.S. and Japan folded and displayed origami cranes to express sympathy for the Japanese people affected by the tragedy. The crew aboard the International Space Station also folded and displayed origami cranes on the outpost.

In ancient Japanese legend, anyone who folds 1,000 origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane, such as a long life or recovery from illness or injury. The crane is also a symbol of peace.

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