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Space Shuttle Flight a 'Great Success,' Astronauts Say

Space Shuttle Flight a 'Great Success,' Astronauts Say
STS-124 and Expedition 17 crewmembers pose for a group portrait in the Destiny laboratory of the ISS while space shuttle Discovery is docked. From the left (front row) are NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, NASA astronauts Ron Garan, Mike Fossum, all STS-124 mission specialists; and Ken Ham, shuttle pilot. From the left (back row) are Russian Federal Space Agency cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff, Expedition 17 flight engineers; astronaut Garrett Reisman, STS-124 mission specialist; Mark Kelly, STS-124 commander; and Russian Federal Space Agency cosmonaut Sergei Volkov, Expedition 17 commander. (Image credit: NASA)

HOUSTON — Astronauts aboard the shuttle Discovery and International Space Station (ISS) reveled in the success of their mission Monday after delivering the largest single laboratory ever launched to the orbiting outpost.

"Overall, the mission's been a great success," Discovery commander Mark Kelly told reporters from space. "I certainly have a great crew and they're well trained, but there's also a little luck involved."

Kelly and his six STS-124 crewmates have spent the last week installing Japan's $1 billion Kibo laboratory, a massive orbital room the size of a tour bus, during three spacewalks outside the station.

Weighing in at nearly 16 tons, the main Kibo lab is 37 feet (11 meters) long and has a small airlock, two windows and a 33-foot (10-meter) robotic arm, which Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide test drove earlier today before he reopened the lab's attic-like storage room.

Japan plans to launch a second smaller robotic arm and a porch-like external platform for exterior experiments next year.

"It's amazing what's going on up here," said U.S. astronaut Gregory Chamitoff. "This is just the beginning."

Chamitoff launched to the station aboard Discovery, but will stay aboard when the shuttle undocks early Wednesday to join its three-man Expedition 17 crew. He is replacing NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman, who has lived aboard the station since March and will return to Earth when Discovery lands on Saturday.

Reisman said he was looking forward to reuniting with his wife Simone Francis and, perhaps a bit less so, their cat Fuzzy. And while he would miss soaring through the station under weightlessness, he was looking forward to his first meal on Earth after months in space.

"Of course, I would love to have a good slice of pizza," Reisman said. "A nice, big, fat hamburger bun or something like that would be great."

NASA is broadcasting Discovery's STS-124 mission live on NASA TV on Saturday. Click here for SPACE.com's shuttle mission updates and NASA TV feed.

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Tariq Malik

SPACE.COM EDITOR IN CHIEF — Tariq joined the Space.com team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times. 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. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Google+, Twitter and on Facebook.