Crowded Space Station Has International Flair, Astronaut Says
The International Space Station may feel a bit crowded with 13 people aboard, but the population boost has also given it a multicultural flair, an astronaut said Sunday.
NASA astronaut Dave Wolf, who once lived aboard Russia?s Mir space station for months, said the space station is an inviting place.
?As you go through here, you hear different languages. You hear different music,? Wolf told reporters in a televised news conference. ?It?s like going around the world within a spacecraft that?s already going around.?
The space station is currently home to its first full six-man crew and seven astronauts from the shuttle Endeavour, which brought Wolf and his crewmates to the station. That makes 13 in all - the largest single gathering aboard the station.
?It?s really fascinating to be here,? Wolf said.
A space toilet broke down early in the joint mission, but was swiftly repaired a day later by the station crew to the relief of all 13 astronauts aboard. The orbital commode was one of three aboard Endeavour (which has one) and the station (which has two). But the astronauts were limiting themselves to just using the two on the station to avoid filling Endeavour?s wastewater tank, which could not be emptied overboard because it could contaminate nearby station hardware.
On Saturday, a NASA device used to remove carbon dioxide from the station?s atmosphere went offline, but it has also been fixed. A spare air-scrubbing device was already planned to be delivered to the station during NASA?s next shuttle flight in late August.
Truly international outpost
Even before Endeavour arrived, the station was a diverse place. The $100 billion laboratory is the product of cooperation between 16 countries. Its current six-person crew includes two Russian cosmonauts, two Americans and one astronaut each from Canada and Belgium.
Until recently, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata also served on the station?s crew. He will return home aboard Endeavour after living on the station for 4 1/2 months. But until he does, all five of the station?s major international partners - NASA and the space agencies of Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada - are represented aboard.
?We?ve put together a vehicle that is truly international; brought together a truly international crew representing the whole world,? Wolf said. ?And now we?re undertaking perhaps one of the most spectacular engineering achievements that humans can ever conduct. It?s just fabulous in many dimensions.?
Wakata brought 28 new Japanese dishes to add to the increasingly international cuisine aboard the station, which includes foods from the native countries of each of the astronauts and cosmonauts.
?We even managed to have dinner a couple of nights with our wonderful hosts here," said Endeavour commander Mark Polansky. ?I think it's been an extremely successful mission in spite of a lot of really interesting curve balls that have been thrown our way.?
Endeavour?s six-man, one-woman crew is in the homestretch of a 16-day construction flight to the space station. The astronauts delivered Wakata?s replacement - NASA astronaut Tim Kopra - as well as a new Japanese experiment porch and spare parts for the outpost.
The astronauts will perform their fifth and last planned spacewalk for the mission on Monday and leave the space station on Tuesday. Endeavour is due to return to Earth July 31 and land in Florida.
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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.
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