Astronauts Attach New Russian Science Module to Space Station

Astronauts aboard the space shuttle Atlantis successfully installed a new Russian research room on the International Space Station Tuesday.

The $200 million new room – called the Mini Research Module-1 (MRM-1), or "Rassvet," meaning "Dawn" in Russian – is the main item being delivered by Atlantis during its STS-132 mission to the station. The shuttle launched Friday on its last planned flight before it retires.

Mission specialist Garrett Reisman steered the space station's robotic arm to carry the new room to its permanent home on the station's Zarya module. Rassvet docked at 8:20 a.m. EDT (1220 GMT).

"Garrett did a good job flying," capcom Steve Swanson at Mission Control in Houston said. "It went right down the middle, got a hole in one."

Atlantis docked at the space station Sunday, bearing six astronauts, the new module, and a load of spare supplies to outfit the station after NASA's three-space shuttle fleet is retired later this year.

The 11,188-pound (5,075-kilogram) Rassvet is 19.7 feet (6 meters) long, smaller than some of the larger rooms on the station. [Graphic: Russia's Rassvet space module.]

"It's not big, but it's a pretty interesting module, which will add new capabilities," said Alexey Krasnov, chief of the piloted programs directorate at the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos.

The six shuttle Atlantis astronauts woke this morning at 2:50 a.m. EDT (0650 GMT) to begin their busy fifth day in space. They were awakened by the song "Macho Man" by the village people, played especially for mission specialist Garrett Reisman.

"Good morning Atlantis, and a special good morning to you today, Garrett," said Shannon Lucid, capcom at Mission Control in Houston.

"Thanks Shannon, good morning," Reisman replied. "Good morning also to Simone, who's behind the selection of that tune," he said to his wife back on Earth, laughing. "We're feeling like macho men!"

New room

The job of installing Rassvet involved some complicated robotics work to get the lab transferred over.

First, STS-132 commander Ken Ham and pilot Tony Antonelli used the space shuttle's robotic arm to lift the module out of Atlantis' cargo bay. Then, they handed off the room to Reisman, who grabbed it with the space station robotic arm. He then steered it over to the other side of the station where Rassvet linked up.

"This is like a little ballet," mission specialist Piers Sellers said in a preflight interview. "Hopefully if it will work out nicely and we'll get a seal and I think sometime, the next day, they'll open up the hatches and see if anybody's stowed away inside."

In fact, Rassvet is loaded full of U.S. cargo, including new laptops, food and supplies for the station crew. The United States was allowed to pack items inside the module in exchange for delivering it to the station on a space shuttle.

"It's full of U.S. supplies right now so they'll get in there and clean all that out, and then it'll be another laboratory, if you will," Atlantis pilot Tony Antonelli said.

Mission on track

Later today, mission specialists Stephen Bowen and Michael Good will prepare for their spacewalk on Wednesday, the second of three planned excursions during the 12-day STS-132 mission.

The Atlantis astronauts spent Monday completing the first spacewalk. Despite a few glitches during the spacewalk, including a computer failure and some trouble installing a backup antenna at the station, mission managers said Atlantis' flight is going well.

"We couldn't be more pleased with how the mission is going so far," LeRoy Cain, STS-132 mission management team co-chair, said during a Monday briefing.

There was an option for the astronauts to carry out a focused inspection of Atlantis' heat shield Tuesday, if further data was needed on the state of the insulating tiles that protect the orbiter from the heat of re-entry to Earth. But so far NASA has decided a focused inspection is not needed yet, though the astronauts may perform further scans later.

"We still have some data coming in, so we still have some time to see whether we need any more data," Cain said.

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