On its final mission, the crew of the space shuttle Atlantis successfully brought the Russian Mini-Research Module-1, also known as Rassvet (Russian for "dawn"), to its permanent home on the Russian segment of the International Space Station. NASA said Rassvet will provide additional storage space and a new docking port for Russian spacecraft. Mission specialists Garrett Reisman and Piers Sellers maneuvered the station robotic arm to deliver the module to its new position.
The crewmembers woke to the tune of The Village People's "Macho Man," the featured song played for Reisman, the space agency noted. They connected the module to the Earth-facing port of the Zarya module as the space station orbited about 220 miles above Argentina in the second of the mission's three scheduled spacewalks. Weighing more than 11,000 pounds and measuring 19.7 feet in length and 7.7 feet in diameter, Rassvet will host a wide variety of biotechnology and biological science experiments and fluid physics and educational research.
"Rassvet provides important new real estate for experiments to be conducted on the space station and will be a cornerstone of Russian laboratory facilities for years to come," said Julie Robinson, ISS program scientist at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. "This new module enhances the station's research capabilities and enables new investigations to be performed."
On Monday, Atlantis astronauts completed a 7-hour, 25-minute spacewalk, installing a second antenna for high-speed Ku band transmissions and adding a spare parts platform to Dextre, a two-armed extension for the station's robotic arm. After almost 25 years and more than 115 million miles, space shuttle Atlantis is down to this final mission, while the space shuttle program is scheduled to be mothballed after two more flights.
Atlantis mission STS-132 has now completed one of its most critical tasks in delivering to the ISS the Rassvet module. It is only the second Russian module to ever be carried into space by a space shuttle, NASA noted. The orbiter was not only the first launched into space, but it also was the first shuttle to dock to the Russian Space Station Mir. Atlantis was the shuttle behind seven of the 11 shuttle missions to Mir.
"Atlantis has a history of being the shuttle that did the most international things," said Emily Nelson, lead space station flight director for the mission. "It's the orbiter that the Russians have known best because it's the one that came to their space station most often, and it's one that we used to deliver a module for them in the past."
Whether or not people recognize it by name, Atlantis' missions have often performed well-known services in the exploration of space. Besides the visits to Mir, Atlantis carried the Magellan Spacecraft into orbit, sending it on its way to Venus, where it mapped 98 percent of the planet from orbit. The same year-1989-it also deployed the Galileo spacecraft to Jupiter, where it collected data on the planet and its moons for eight years.