Seemingly, the current space shuttle mission, STS-126, has been all about two things: recycling and restoring. The crew has been working almost nonstop to get a new system that turns urine into drinking water to work correctly; and spacewalkers spent a majority of four grueling EVAs cleaning and lubricating a jammed solar-wing joint on the station’s right side. And now there’s good news to report on both fronts. The urine recycling system now seems to be working perfectly. “Not to spoil anything, but I think up here the appropriate words are ‘Yippee!'” space station commander Mike Fincke told ground controllers. Mission Control replied, “There will be dancing later.” The recycling system will be a necessity for supporting the International Space Station’s crew, which will increase from three to six in early 2009. Also essential will be enough power to support the larger crew, so having the SARJ working correctly, the Solar Alpha Rotary Joint which allows the solar arrays to track the sun, is more good news. After Endeavour astronauts worked on the giant gears and replaced bearing assemblies, initial tests found the starboard SARJ working well, with no power spikes or excessive vibrations. So, with the major hurdles on the mission being cleared, the astronauts will be able to enjoy an irradiated, freeze-dried, vacuum-packed Thanksgiving holiday meal on Thursday. And UT readers can now enjoy some of the great images from this mission in the gallery below.
The space station crew had this view of space shuttle Endeavour as it approached the ISS for docking. Visible in the payload bay is the Italian-built Leonardo Multipurpose Logistics Module, or cargo carrier.
Fresh fruit is a rarity and a delicacy in space, and is one of the things the ISS crew enjoys the most during a shuttle visit. Here astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Sandra Magnus are pictured with fresh fruit floating freely on the middeck of Space Shuttle Endeavour.
Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper and Steve Bowen work in tandem near a truss structure during one of four spacewalks conducted during the STS-126 mission.
The shuttle crew brought up “home improvements” for the ISS and here, Greg Chamitoff and Sandy Magnus move a crew quarters rack in the Harmony node of the International Space Station. This will be a future crew member’s personal space and sleep station.
A view inside the Leonardo Multipurpose Logistics Module, which carried up 14,000 lbs of supplies and new facilities for the space station including two water recovery systems racks for recycling urine into potable water, a second toilet system, new gallery components, two new food warmers, a food refrigerator, an experiment freezer, combustion science experiment rack, two separate sleeping quarters and a resistance exercise device.
Can you find the astronaut in this image? Spacewalker Steve Bowen is dwarfed by the station components and solar arrays in this view.
Following a space-to-Earth press conference, members of the International Space Station and Space Shuttle Endeavour crews posed for a group portrait on the orbital outpost. Astronaut Donald Pettit appears at photo center. Just below Pettit is astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshin-Piper. Clockwise from her position are astronauts Shane Kimbrough, Steve Bowen, Eric Boe, Chris Ferguson and Michael Fincke, along with cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov, and astronauts Sandra Magnus and Gregory Chamitoff.
One more EVA picture for you. Here Steve Bowen works during the mission’s fourth and final EVA as maintenance continueson the International Space Station. During the six-hour spacewalk, Bowen and astronaut Shane Kimbrough (not visible), completed the lubrication of the port Solar Alpha Rotary Joints (SARJ) as well as other station assembly tasks. Bowen returned to the starboard SARJ to install the final trundle bearing assembly, retracted a berthing mechanism latch on the Japanese Kibo Laboratory and reinstalled its thermal cover. Bowen also installed a video camera on the Port 1 truss and attached a Global Positioning System antenna on the Japanese Experiment Module Pressurized Section.
See all the STS-126 images here.