HOUSTON – When visiting someone's house — even in space — bring food. That was Japanese astronaut Takao Doi's motto and his country's orbital eats are apparently a hit aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Doi, a veteran spaceflyer who is helping deliver the first segment of Japan's massive Kibo laboratory to the ISS, packed three types of Japanese noodles, some salmon and steamed rice for his crewmates aboard the shuttle Endeavour and space station.
"Actually, the Japanese food was great, especially after being up here for five months," station commander Peggy Whitson told Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda late Wednesday. "Takao was kind enough to bring us chopsticks to make it official."
The 10 astronauts aboard the station and shuttle sat down together for a joint meal early Wednesday, where they sampled Doi's Japanese treats.
"It was particularly good to have something different," said Whitson, who is nearing the end of a six-month stint as the station's Expedition 16 commander. "It was very tasty."
Doi launched toward the ISS with six NASA astronauts aboard the shuttle Endeavour on March 11 to deliver the space station's Japanese Logistics Pressurized module, a storage compartment for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) tour bus-sized Kibo laboratory. He is also testing new Japanese space clothing, underwear and a boomerang in orbit.
The astronauts also swapped out one member of the station's crew and constructed a giant, Canadian-built maintenance robot called Dextre during three spacewalks. Doi gave Fukuda and viewers in Japan a tour of the station's new Japanese room.
"Doi-san, thank you for your hard work," Fukuda told the Japanese astronaut.
The storage module is the first of JAXA's three-segment Kibo ("Hope" in Japanese) lab, which is so massive it is being launched in pieces. The lab's large, primary experiment module is set to launch in late May, with a porch-like external platform to follow next year.
"This is a Japanese home in space and we hope to utilize this," Doi said of Kibo. "We hope everybody will utilize this in the future."
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