Science

Shuttle Endeavour's mission STS-126: The ISS renovation project

Extreme home improvements are the focus of space shuttle mission STS-126 that is scheduled to lift off at 7:55 p.m. ET on Nov. 14, 2008, from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Orbiting outpost set for extreme makeover as shuttle to haul supplies to space

Shuttle Endeavour sits on the launch pad, awaiting launch of mission STS-126 to the International Space Station. (NASA)
When NASA planned the November 2008 mission of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, it must have been thinking big. And it was probably thinking that the International Space Station, about to mark its 10th anniversary, needed a major overhaul.

"Extreme home improvements" is the focus of the mission that is scheduled to lift off at 7:55 p.m. ET on Nov. 14, 2008, from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Shuttle commander Christopher Ferguson said days before liftoff that the space station  is getting a makeover.

"This mission is all about home improvement; home improvement both inside and outside," he said.

The seven astronauts who make up the crew of the Endeavour for mission STS-126 will expand the living quarters to enable the facility to house six astronauts, double its current crew, by next June. Once the work of the 15-day mission is complete, the space station will have been transformed from a "starter-home" with three bedrooms, one bathroom and a kitchenette to a "house" with five bedrooms, two bathrooms and two kitchenettes.

Crew

The crew of space shuttle Endeavour mission STS-126. (NASA)
The all-American crew of the Endeavour is made up of five men and two women: Ferguson, 47; air force Col. Eric Boe, 44, who will serve as a shuttle pilot; navy Capt. Steve Bowen, 44; army Lt.-Col. Shane Kimbrough, 41; navy Capt. Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, 45; astronaut Sandra Magnus, 44; and astronaut Donald Pettit, 53.

One member of the Endeavour crew will replace one of the three current residents of the space station. Magnus, a flight engineer, is to replace current space station resident Greg Chamitoff, also a flight engineer and an astronaut. Chamitoff, an American who was born in Montreal, has been at the space station since the end of May.

Cargo

The astronauts are delivering 14,515 kilograms (32,000 pounds) of supplies, including a second toilet, a kitchenette, two sleep stations, an exercise machine and a water recycling system. The exercise machine will allow the crew to perform such exercises as bench presses, dead lifts, sit-ups and squats.

The other supplies going up on the shuttle range from two new food warmers, a refrigerator, an experiment freezer and a water dispenser, to a combustion rack for scientific experiments.

The home improvement supplies have been put in racks the size of refrigerators, NASA spokespeople said. In space, one astronaut can move a rack with little problem.

The supplies are to be delivered with an Italian logistics module named Leonardo that will act as a kind of moving van. Leonardo, when it returns to Earth, will carry equipment and scientific samples from station research.

Of all the home improvements, the water recycling system is being viewed as particularly innovative. It is designed to turn urine into drinking water at the orbiting outpost.

But the renovation project is not the only task for the Endeavour crew. The astronauts are to conduct four spacewalks, each expected to last about six and a half hours.

Three crew members will take turns taking walks to clean and lubricate two parts of the space station, known as the solar alpha rotary joints, that are clogged with metal shavings and preventing a set of solar wings from turning automatically toward the sun.

The spacewalkers will also install a new nitrogen tank, a global positioning system, antennae and a camera on the outside of the station.

The Endeavour is the 27th flight to the station and the fourth shuttle flight this year. The shuttle will be docked when the space station celebrates its 10th anniversary on Nov. 20. The first station module was launched into space and construction began in 1998.

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