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October 26, 2007

House-warming Saturday

House-warming Saturday

With the successful attachment of the new Harmony module by spacewalkers Scott Parazynski and Doug Wheelock today, the astronauts plan to enter their new addition for the first time Saturday. Harmony is currently attached “across the hall (Unity node)” from the Quest airlock. The crew won’t want to get too comfortable with it in that position, though. It is going to be moved soon after the shuttle departs.

The reason it can’t be attached to its permanent position now is that the shuttle is docked to the Pressurized Mating Adaptor (PMA) which is attached to the Destiny lab. Harmony will eventually be between Destiny and the PMA.

Moving all the pieces around will require some nifty robotic maneuvering which we’ve seen a lot of on this mission. After the shuttle departs, the Pressurized Mating Adaptor (PMA), that crooked funnel-looking thing that attaches to the shuttle’s airlock, will be detached from Destiny and moved around to the port side and attached to Harmony. Then Harmony, with the PMA attached, will be detached from the Unity node and swung around to the front of Destiny where the PMA used to be. So Harmony will end up between Destiny and the PMA.

When the shuttle arrives in December with the Columbus module, it will dock to the PMA as usual. (The shuttle can only dock to the PMA. The Soyuz have several docking ports.) Columbus will be attached to the starboard side of Harmony. In the spring (April) the Japanese Kibo will be added on the port side of Harmony.

The Italians built Harmony, and also the part of the station that will replace it on the port side of Unity: a giant segmented picture window called the cupola. This window’s primary purpose is to help with robotic operations and Earth observations, but it is bound to be the most coveted seat in the heavens for crew and visitors alike.

Coming up

The next spacewalk is scheduled for Sunday bright and early, or rather just early for most of us because it starts around 6 a.m. Eastern time. All the action will be over by lunchtime at 12:38 p.m. The main task is to move the port 6 (P6) solar array from atop the Z1 truss (which is above Unity) to the port side where it belongs.

Monday will be the handoff of this P6 array from the station arm to the shuttle arm and back again. Mission control does not want to leave the array on the shuttle arm too long in case some emergency would require the shuttle to depart. While it is out there, the shuttle will not be able to dump any excess water.

Tuesday is the third EVA that will see the re-deployment of the P6 array. The deployments must occur in daylight with the 2B section going out first followed by the 4B section. This should be some tricky and tedious work by the spacewalkers with lots of umbilicals to mate and equipment to unlatch and unlock and deploy. The most visually stunning part of the spacewalk, the first unfurling of the golden array, is scheduled for 1:28 p.m. Set your online reminders!

On Halloween Wednesday, the crew will be trick or treating, hauling bags of goodies from the shuttle to the station. I suspect the station will get the treats, and the shuttle the tricks (soiled clothes, broken equipment, ugh—what did they do to deserve that?!). Astronaut costumes are highly anticipated.

Thursday is the fourth spacewalk. You’ll have to either stay up all night or get up really early to catch this one, especially if you live on the west coast. It starts at 4:28 a.m. and ends at 9:13.

Amazingly, there will a fifth and final EVA the very next day, on Friday. The reason they can be back-to-back is that this spacewalk is by a fresh crew, Peggy Whitson and Yuri Malenchenko.

The final hatch closing will be on Saturday, the undocking on Sunday, with landing in the dark at Kennedy on Tuesday, November 6 at 4:50 a.m. If you live on the flight path, you might alert your kids to expect some sonic booms. Tell them it is not the sound of angels bowling in heaven, but the Earth welcoming home 7 astronauts after a job well done.

Marianne Dyson
NSS Member

Posted by m_dyson at October 26, 2007 05:56 PM



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