Astronauts hit snag with new space station room

Feb 13, 2010 By MARCIA DUNN , AP Aerospace Writer
In this Feb. 11, 2010 photo provided by NASA, astronaut Nicholas Patrick participates in the first session of extravehicular activity as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station. (AP Photo/NASA)

(AP) -- Astronauts ran into trouble Saturday while setting up the International Space Station's newest room, Tranquility: A critical insulating cover does not fit.

The fabric, multilayered cover is supposed to go between Tranquility and its observation deck, but the metal bars are not locking down properly because of interference from a hand rail or some other structure at the hatch.

Flight director Bob Dempsey said engineers are trying to figure out how to proceed. Until this snag, everything had been going smoothly in NASA's final major construction job at the space station. Shuttle Endeavour delivered Tranquility and the attached lookout - an enormous bay window - earlier this week.

The cover is needed to protect Tranquility's seals and docking mechanisms from the cold. This port will be exposed, temporarily, when the domed lookout is moved to its permanent location on the other side of Tranquility. That relocation is supposed to happen Sunday, but may be delayed.

Dempsey said the may be asked to remove the interfering pieces or, possibly, do away with the cover entirely and proceed with the original relocation plan. Once the lookout is moved, a docking adapter will take its place so the port would not be exposed for too long, provided nothing else went wrong.

Another option, Dempsey said, may be to hold off on moving the observation deck until a properly fitting cover can be flown on another .

Only four more shuttle missions remain. The next visit is scheduled for mid to late March.

The $27 million, Italian-built observation deck sports the biggest window ever flown in space. In all, there are seven windows that will offer 360-degree views.

The 11 astronauts aboard the shuttle-station complex opened the door Friday to the $380 million Tranquility, also made in Italy for the . The door leading from Tranquility into the was opened soon afterward, and that's when shuttle pilot Terry Virts and Kay Hire encountered the cover problem.

That didn't stop the astronauts from routing cables and water lines into Tranquility, and hauling in an exercise machine and other equipment.

"I will tell you, we're filling it up very quickly," Hire said in an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday morning. "We're loading all kinds of equipment in there and starting to bring it to life."

Virts said Tranquility had that "new spaceship smell" when the hatch swung open. He described the odor as unique, "almost a space smell to it."

Tranquility was installed on the space station early Friday during the first spacewalk of the mission. Two spacewalkers will venture back out Saturday night to set up plumbing needed for Tranquility's cooling system.

Virts said this week's events remind him of the completion of America's transcontinental railroad.

"When it was done, it opened up the West, let our country become the nation that we are today," he told the AP. With the addition of Tranquility and the lookout, this "is the beginning of a future of space exploration that a long time from now, we'll look back on and see in a similar vein."

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Quantum_Conundrum
2 / 5 (8) Feb 13, 2010
$10,000 per pound, and the idiots at NASA made another "Square peg in a round hole" mistake...

...only in America!!
CarolinaScotsman
4.3 / 5 (3) Feb 13, 2010
$10,000 per pound, and the idiots at NASA made another "Square peg in a round hole" mistake...

...only in America!!

Uh...this section was made in Italy under the auspices of the European Space Agency.

"Tranquility had that "new spaceship smell"

In other words, it doesn't smell like astonauts who've been six months without a shower.
bluehigh
5 / 5 (1) Feb 14, 2010
PS: 2.54cm almost equals 1 inch.
holoman
5 / 5 (1) Feb 14, 2010
I remember them spending >$ 6 million on a centripetal device with three floors of engine rooms and controls to only run it 6 seconds to find out it would shake and tare down a 100,000 ft office complex.

When I was walking through this large room I said you had better not turn this thing on or you will kill everyone.

I was hired on the spot by the contractor, a year later turning down an offer by NASA to join as an Air Force lieutenant.

I saw waste and stupidity by NASA and have been on a quest to privatize NASA and have the roadblock to extraordinary space exploration removed.

President Obama has removed the old head of this organization and looks now to privatize alot of its future work.

This is overdue and I am in hopes the US can now make some significant progress towards colonization of Mars and human exploration of the universe finding a solution to ligh speed travel.

There are alot of good scientist at NASA but management stands in the way of progress.