Busy Shuttle Flight Goes Smoothly, Astronauts Say

Astronauts Open Space Station's New Room
Shuttle Discovery and Expedition 16 astronauts talk with reporters from inside the new Harmony node aboard the International Space Station (ISS) on Oct. 27, 2007, after the module was opened earlier in the day. (Image credit: NASA TV.)

HOUSTON - Astronauts broke in a brand newroom aboard the International Space Station (ISS) with some orbital funSaturday as their ambitious construction mission goes well.

With smiles on their faces,the astronauts of NASA?s shuttle Discovery and the station?s Expedition 16 crewperformed some formation flying inside Harmony, the new 16-ton connecting nodethey christenedearlier today as the hub for future international laboratories at the ISS.

?Looking back over the lastfew days, it has gone very smoothly and we?re excited about that,? shuttle commander Pamela Melroy toldreporters during several interviews from the new node. ?But there?s a lot ofwork left yet to come.?

Melroy and her STS-120 crewdelivered the Italian-built Harmony module during a Friday spacewalk. Theyworked alongside the ISS crew to outfit the node?s interior earlier today,priming it to serve as the attachment point for Europe?s Columbus lab and Japan?sthree-piece Kibomodule once the module is moved to its permanent location next month.

?It?s bright, it?s shiny,?said NASA?s lead shuttle flight director Rick LaBrode of Harmony. ?The report fromthe crew is that it?s as clean as can be.?

But the node?s installationis just part of a packed mission for Discovery?s astronaut crew.

The astronauts have alreadyswapped out one member of the station?s Expedition 16 crew and plan to move amassive 17.5-ton solar array segment during two upcoming spacewalks, the firstof which is set for Sunday. Two more spacewalks - giving their flight arecord-tying five excursions - will test a shuttle heat shield repair techniqueand prime the ISS for future construction.

?This is really a specialmoment for the station because it kicks off the international science portionof the international space station,? Melroy said of the mission so far. ?I love the idea thatdelivering this node is beginning a whole new era of science in space.?

The first-time flyers on Melroy?s crew havetaken at least a few moments since their Discovery shuttle?s Oct. 23 launch tosoak in the view of Earth.

?The first time I set eyeson it, I [saw] that the colors are brilliant,? Discovery pilot George Zamka. ?There is atremendous amount of blue that comes from the Earth. When the Sun comes up,it?s like a blue rainbow going around the Earth.?

Melroy is NASA?s secondfemale shuttle commander and is leading her flight at the same time asExpedition 16 commander Peggy Whitson, the first woman ever to lead an ISSmission. Both spaceflyers said they took heart that enough female astronauts are flying that thecoincidence could occur.

Whitson received aceremonial whip to signify her command before launching to the ISS on Oct. 10.When asked which among the station and shuttle?s joint crew needed the closest attention,Whitson - and all others present in Harmony - jokingly pointed to crewmateClayton Anderson, a spaceflyer known for his sense of humor.

?I?ve been as nice as achoir boy,? replied a smiling Anderson, who is completing a five-month missionto ISS and will return to Earth aboard Discovery. ?I don?t understand all thisharassment I?ve been getting.?

NASA is broadcastingDiscovery's STS-120 launch and mission operations live on NASA TV. Click here for mission updatesand NASA TV from SPACE.com.


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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at Space.com and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.