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.