Endeavour STS-126 has docked at the International Space Station, dropping off a much-anticipated delivery: a new toilet and additional living quarters.
The space shuttle arrived at the station yesterday (Sunday) at 5:01 P.M. EST, NASA says. On board were seven crewmembers and 14,000 pounds of cargo, including a second commode, two new bedrooms and a resistance-exercise machine. The extra living spaces will double the space station’s capacity from three to six crew members at a time.
Another home-improvement item: a system that will recycle urine and condensation into drinking water. The water-recovery system converts the waste products into potable water through a series of chemical and filter treatments.
"We understand that this house is in need of an extreme makeover and that you're the crew to do it," quipped the space station's skipper, Mike Fincke.
The crew is preparing for four spacewalks, the first of which will take place tomorrow by mission specialists Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper and Stephen Bowen. Astronauts will be cleaning one of two solar rotary joints that capture energy from the sun. One of them is jammed with metal shavings, the Associated Press notes.
Friday’s launch of Endeavour was among the last shuttle missions before NASA retires its fleet in 2010. President-elect Barack Obama will have to decide whether to stick to that date; the U.S. space program will be hitching rides on Russian Soyuz craft until it upgrades its fleet in 2015.
Flight engineer Gregory Chamitoff, who’s been on the space station for six months, will return to Earth on Endeavour in two weeks. Astronaut Sandra Magnus is taking his place.
Expedition 18 crew welcomes STS-126 astronauts/NASA TV