Station Astronauts Eager for Orbital Houseguests

Station Astronauts Eager for Orbital Houseguests
Expedition 16 flight Engineer Dan Tani (left) and commander Peggy Whitson conduct an interview from the Destiny Laboratory of the International Space Station on Feb. 8, 2008. (Image credit: NASA TV)

Astronautsaboard the International Space Station (ISS) are rolling out the welcome matfor seven spaceflyers aboard NASA?s shuttle Atlantis.

The shuttlecrew will deliver the new European-built Columbus laboratory to the ISS when itdocks Saturday at 12:25 p.m. EST (1725 GMT) on the same day, by coincidence, asstation commanderPeggy Whitson?s 48th birthday.

?It istomorrow, so my present is a new module that we?re going to install on boardthe station,? a smiling Whitson told reporters via space-to-ground video onFriday.

Whitson andExpedition 16 flight engineers Dan Tani and Yuri Malenchenko are eagerlyawaiting the arrival of Atlantis? STS-122 crew. Not only are the shuttleastronauts delivering a new space station laband ferrying Tani?s replacement - European Space Agency spaceflyerLeopold Eyharts - to the ISS, they?re also bringing food.

?It?s allabout the sauce. So we?ve made several requests for different sauces to try andspice up the food a bit more,? Whitson said. ?It gets a little old after beingup here for several months.?

Freshtortillas, another hot commodity, are also stowed on board the incoming shuttle,she added.

?I?m alsolooking forward to a couple of new shirts,? joked Tani.

WhileWhitson and Malenchenko launched to the ISS last fall for a planned six-monthmission, Tani arrived in late October during NASA?s last shuttle flight.

He expectedto return home by Christmas, but delaysto Atlantis? current mission extended his flight by about two months. Taniis now scheduled to return to Earth with Atlantis? crew on Feb. 18, whileEyharts will stay on until a replacement arrives aboard NASA?s Endeavourorbiter next month.

?I?m reallyhappy to see all of them,? Tani said. ?They?re good friends of ours.?

NASA isbroadcasting Atlantis' STS-122 mission live on NASA TV. Click here for's shuttle mission coverage and NASA TV feed. 

  • VIDEO: ISS Commander Peggy Whitson Takes Charge
  • Quiz: The Reality of Life in Orbit
  • Video Interplayer: NASA's STS-122: Columbus Sets Sail for ISS

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of 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's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, 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 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.