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.
- SPACE.com Video Interplayer: Delivering 'Harmony' with NASA's STS-120 Mission
- Explore the Skies Tonight: SPACE.com Sky Calendar
- Complete Space Shuttle Mission Coverage