Endeavour Crew Readies for First Spacewalk

By Roy Mark  |  Posted 2010-02-11

The crew of the space shuttle Endeavour begins the first major portion of its mission to the International Space Station Feb. 12 when astronauts Nicholas Patrick and Robert Behnken will unload and prepare to install the Tranquility mode, the last U.S. portion of the ISS.

The new node will add additional room for crew members and many of the space station's life support and environmental control systems. Attached to the node is a cupola, which houses a robotic control station and has seven windows that will provide a panoramic view of Earth, celestial objects and visiting spacecraft.

To prepare for the mission's first spacewalk, NASA reported that Patrick and Behnken are resting in an airlock with reduced air pressure to avoid decompression sickness. Their rest period began shortly before 8 a.m. EST.

Before beginning the crew's rest time, station Commander Jeff Williams installed the Water Recovery System's refurbished Distillation Assembly and replacement of the system's Fluids Control Pump Assembly while Endeavour Commander George Zamka and Mission Specialists Kathryn Hire and Stephen Robinson worked to transfer equipment and supplies.

The crews wrapped up their workday with an hourlong review of spacewalk procedures beginning about 4:10 a.m. Williams and flight engineers Soichi Noguchi and T.J. Creamer also participated.

Spanning about 22 feet in length and 14 feet in diameter, the Tranquility node's connection point on the ISS will be on the Earth-facing side of the Unity node. Tranquility was built for NASA by Thales Alenia Space in Turin, Italy, under contract to the European Space Agency. Although Tranquility was actually delivered in May, 2009, NASA did not officially take possession until Nov. 30.

After the node and cupola are added, the orbiting laboratory will be about 90 percent complete. 

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