Crew Adds Harmony to Space Station

The crew of the International Space Station (ISS) performed an extravehicular activity today to connect the newly delivered Harmony port module to the body of the orbiting platform. Delivered earlier this month by the Discovery orbiter, Harmony is a sort of hallway that leads from the present crew modules of the ISS to a number of science laboratories that are ready to be added in upcoming missions. Its successful deployment is crucial to the construction schedule of the ISS.

In a seven-hour spacewalk, Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Daniel Tani connected the Italian-made Harmony to the U.S-built Destiny lab, attaching most of the cables that integrate the new module with the rest of the space station, according to a statement from NASA. Attaching the last of the umbilical connections between Harmony and the ISS will take place during a follow-up spacewalk scheduled for Saturday. Preparations for that effort will mean the crew will have to curtail celebrating the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.

"With this particular crew on board, I don't know if holidays mean anything to them. They are just a hard-charging, get-it-done crew," Kenny Todd, a space station manager, said of the team known as Expedition 16. "We'll have to make sure they understand that it's Thanksgiving and take some time and take a breath."

Integration of the Harmony node sets the stage for the mission of Atlantis, due to liftoff on 6 December (see NASA's main shuttle information section for more details). The main payload for the upcoming shuttle flight will be the European-made Columbus science lab, which also will be fitted to the space station via the Harmony portal at a later date.

During today's spacewalk, Tani wished the personnel of the U.S. space agency a "Happy Thanksgiving." Many back on Earth will want to wish him and Expedition 16 a thank you of their own for their timely efforts.

[Editor's Note: Please follow the links from our previous entry on the ISS, "Shuttle Leaves Space Station a Better Place", to prior coverage in Tech Talk.]

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