Astronauts on the International Space Station will get back to work Sunday after a much needed day off in order to retrieve a Japanese cargo carrier from the outpost?s brand new experiment porch.
Nicknamed ?Jelly? by the astronauts, the cargo carrier will be removed from the porch on the edge of the station?s $1 billion Kibo lab using the station?s robotic arm and passed off to Endeavour?s own space crane so it can be secured for the trip home on Friday. It?s a tricky bit of robotics work, but one that is nearly the reverse of maneuvers used to install the pallet last week.
?The good thing on this mission is that a lot of the robotics activities, you put it back the same way you got it out,? said shuttle pilot Doug Hurley, who will help fly the station?s arm today, in a NASA interview. He and his crewmates took their first day off in more than a week on Saturday to rest up from four grueling spacewalks and tough robotic arm work at the station.
Endeavour astronauts temporarily attached the Jelly carrier to Kibo?s new porch so that its three payloads - two science experiments and an advanced communications system - could be transferred to the external exposure facility. The pallet will be returned to Earth on Endeavour so more experiments can be shipped up to the station later.
In addition to their robotic arm work, the 13 Endeavour and station astronauts will discuss their flight with reporters this afternoon during a joint crew conference. Station commander Gennady Padalka of Russia and astronaut Koichi Wakata of Japan also spoke with Japanese dignitaries and students early this morning. ?
Mission Control told the astronauts today that they will not have to repair part of the space station?s American-built carbon dioxide removal system that cleans the air inside the outpost. A heater glitch that tripped a circuit breaker sent the system offline on Saturday, leaving only the station?s Russian carbon dioxide scrubber in its Russian-built segment available to clean the air of the crowded space station.
Engineers on Earth later managed to restart American system late Saturday from Mission Control in Houston by using a built-in manual mode.
Endeavour?s crew is entering the homestretch of a tricky 16-day construction flight to the station. The astronauts delivered a new crewmember and the experiment porch during four challenging spacewalks. The fifth and last spacewalk of the mission is set for Monday.
Endeavour is due to leave the space station Tuesday and land July 31.
- Video - The Kibo Lab: Japan's Hope in Space - Part 1, Part 2
- Video - Bloopers in Space!
- SPACE.com Video Show - The ISS: Foothold on Forever
SPACE.com is providing continuous coverage of STS-127 with reporter Clara Moskowitz and senior editor Tariq Malik in New York. Click here for mission updates and SPACE.com's live NASA TV video feed.