Students Name Next U.S. Space Station Module  ‘Harmony’
Computer-generated artist's rendering of the International Space Station after the Harmony connecting node (circled in yellow) is relocated from the Unity node port side to the forward port of the Destiny Laboratory.
Credit: NASA.

A new hub-like module bound for the International Space Station (ISS) has a new name, Harmony, following a nationwide student competition held by NASA, the space agency announced Thursday.

Formerly known by the simple title Node 2, the Harmony module [image] is due to launch towards the ISS in late August to serve as the attachment point for new European and Japanese laboratories. NASA announced the new name during a ceremony at the agency's Kennedy Space Center spaceport in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

"This module will allow all international partner pieces of the station to connect together, so it's really wonderful that kids recognize that harmony is necessary for space cooperation," said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for space operations, in a statement.

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Built for NASA in Italy, the Harmony module is a 23.6-foot (seven-meter) long cylinder with diameter of about 14.5 feet (4.4 meters). It is destined to be attached to the end of the station's U.S. Destiny laboratory [image] and serve as the gateway to the yet-to-launch European Columbus laboratory [image], Japan's Kibo laboratory [image] and visiting pressurized cargo containers.

NASA's STS-120 astronaut crew, commanded by veteran spaceflyer Pam Melroy, is expected to haul Harmony to the ISS aboard the space shuttle Atlantis no earlier than Aug. 26. The mission is one of up to five planned NASA shuttle flights dedicated to ISS construction this year.

What's in a name?

More than 2,200 students in 32 states, ranging in grade from kindergarten to high school, competed in NASA's Node 2 Challenge, which called on entrants to learn about the ISS, supply a candidate name, write an essay on the suggestion, and build a scale model of the new module [image 1, image 2].

But only six different classes ranging from Grades 3 to 9 suggested the name Harmony, NASA said, adding that Node 2 is the first U.S. piece of the ISS to be named by someone outside the space agency.

"We decided that the name for Node 2 should be Harmony because it also stands for the peaceful bond and support between all the countries in the world," the 9th Grade class at Lubbock High School in Lubbock, Texas wrote in its essay. "With this in mind, we hope that one day everyone can join hands, and cooperate to improve our society and develop space exploration, experimentation and research."

A NASA panel of spaceflight managers, researchers, engineers and educators chose Harmony "because the name symbolizes the spirit of international cooperation embodied by the space station, well as the specific role played by the module in tying together the international partner modules," the space agency said.

NASA's list of the Node 2 Challenge winning schools includes:

  • Paul Cummins' 8th grade class at Browne Academy, Alexandria, Va.
  • Sue Wilson's 3rd grade class at Buchanan Elementary School, Baton Rouge, La.
  • Brigette Berry's 8th grade class at League City Intermediate School, League City, Texas
  • Bradley Neu's 9th grade science class at Lubbock High School, Lubbock, Texas
  • Yocum Russell's 3rd grade class at West Navarre Intermediate School, Navarre, Fla.
  • David Dexheimer's students at the World Group Home School, Monona, Wis.

Harmony will join NASA's Destiny laboratory, Quest airlock and Unity module (formerly Node 1) currently in orbit at the ISS. Russia's Zarya control module, Zvezda service module and Pirs docking compartment, as well as a series of truss segments and solar arrays, round the space station's current configuration [image].

While Harmony is the first U.S. piece of ISS to be named by someone outside NASA, it is not the first time the agency has held a competition to name a space-bound vehicle. NASA held a nationwide competition to name the space shuttle Endeavour. The orbiter's name was announced in May 1989 by then-President George H.W. Bush.