STS 124 Astronauts visit Stennis after delivering “hope”

Published 5:54 pm Thursday, July 24, 2008

After successfully delivering “hope” to the space station five of the astronauts involved in the endeavor shared their experience with Stennis Space Center staff.

The main focus of the mission was to deliver the Japanese lab named Kibo to the space station carried in the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle Discovery.

Space Shuttle Mission STS 124 was the 26th mission to the space station. Delivery of the Japanese lab will enable biological science, physical science and chemistry experiments at the Space Station, said Mission Specialist Michael Fossum.

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Fossum and Mission Specialist Ronald Garan Jr. conducted space walks to install the new module. Mission Specialist Karen Nyberg operated the robotic arm that removed the module from the cargo bay of Discovery and placed it on the space station.

The addition of the new lab, which is about the size of a school bus, increased the total area of the space station to the equivalent of five greyhound busses, Fossum said.

Kibo, defined as meaning hope in Japanese, will allow experiments to take place outside the space station in the vacuum of space, Fossum said. A future mission in about eight months will add an extension to the lab that will resemble a kind of back porch, Fossum said.

“Right now the shuttle is doing what it was designed to do — carry big chunks of the space station,” Fossum said.

Fossum and Garan also installed a new nitrogen tank for the station and did some repair work to a camera during their space walks.

Another objective for the mission involved replacing Greg Chamitoff with Garrett Reisman on the Space Station. Both men are flight engineers.

Completion of that mission leaves less than 10 missions before the space shuttle is slated to be retired in 2010. When the shuttle retires, Fossum does not intend to follow suit.

“I have no intent to do anything else. I worked a lot of years to get here, I’m not done,” Fossum said.

Retirement of the space shuttle will cause about a two-year gap in United States space travel. The possibility of United States astronauts hitching rides on the Soyuz are currently hampered by financial hurdles, Fossum said. He does expect those issues to be worked out by the time the shuttle retires.

Five of the mission’s crew, Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Kenneth Ham, Nyberg, Garan Jr., and Fossum gave a presentation to employees at Stennis after media interviews. Japanese Mission Specialist Akihiko Hoshide, who also participated in the mission, was not at the presentation.

The video presentation ran through the highlights of the mission from begining to end. A question and answer session afterward allowed the audience to gain more insight into being an astronaut and the mission. One question involved the most nerve racking part of space travel. Some astronauts listed take off, another talked about docking the shuttle with the space station with only a three-inch margin of error. Landing was the thing that made Kelly nervous.

“The Space Shuttle is a glider, but it doesn’t have much of a wing so it’s kind of like flying a coke machine,” Kelly said.