Astronauts Pack Up Space Shuttle Cargo Pod

Astronauts Pack Up Space Shuttle Cargo Pod
Astronaut Shane Kimbrough, STS-126 mission specialist, moves a stowage bag in the Harmony node of the International Space Station while Space Shuttle Endeavour remains docked with the station during the November 2008 spaceflight. Astronaut Steve Bowen, mission specialist, is visible in the background. (Image credit: NASA.)

Thisstory was updated at 6:14 p.m. EST.

Astronautsaboard NASA?s space shuttle Endeavour packed up their room-sized cargo podWednesday and stowed it back in their orbital trunk as they prepare to leavethe International Space Station after Thanksgiving this week.

Shuttlecommander Chris Ferguson and his crew buttoned up their Leonardo cargo moduleand unhook it froman Earth-facing berth on the space station?s Harmony node so it can makethe trip home nestled in Endeavour?s payload bay.

?We?remaking the final close outs before we undock in just a few short days,?Ferguson said Tuesday in a televised interview.

Theastronauts delivered about 14,400 pounds (6,531 kg) of cargo, including a newrecycling system that converts astronaut urine and sweat backinto potable water for drinking, food preparation, bathing and oxygengeneration. After several days of glitches and a one-day extension to theirmission, the astronauts got the system up and running and took their finalrecycled water samples today.

Altogether,the spaceflyers are bringing home almost 2 gallons (7 liters) of fresh waterrecycled from astronaut urine and condensed sweat. Packed aboard Endeavour,meanwhile, are about 3,642 pounds (1,651 kg) of trash and unneeded equipment returningto Earth from the space station.

?We?rehaving a wonderful time,? Ferguson said. ?We docked with the space station afew days and since then, it?s been all work and no play.?

Endeavourastronauts arrived at the space station last week to swap out one member of theorbitinglaboratory?s crew and perform the mother of all space renovations toprepare the outpost for larger, six-person crews next year.

Theirmission: expandthe space station from a three-bedroom, one-bath, one-kitchen laboratoryinto a five-bedroom research facility with two bathrooms, two kitchens, a gymand a space food fridge.

?Hey, wegot cold water!? station skipper Michael Fincke radioed down to Mission Controllate Tuesday, adding that he was looking forward to chilled drinks from thecooler once it was hooked up. ?And they said it couldn?t be done.?

UntilEndeavour arrived with the new space cooler, station astronauts had only thechoice between hot or lukewarm water for refreshment throughout the outpost?seight years of habitation.

Endeavour?sshuttle?s spacewalking team also performed an unprecedented clean-and-greasejob during four different excursions to lubricate a massive 10-foot (3-meter)wide gear, replace its damaged bearings and clean metal shavings from its innermechanism.

Thestarboard side gear is one of two designed to rotate the station?s solar wingslike a paddlewheel to track the sun, but had been damaged for more than a year.

In additionto their packing work, Endeavour astronauts finalized plans for Thanksgivingaboard the space station on Thursday. Because Endeavour?s mission was extendeda day, all 10 astronauts of the joint shuttle-station crew will have time tocelebrate the U.S. holiday together before the orbiter leaves.

Pre-cookedturkey, stuffing, candied yams and a cranberry dessert were initially on themenu for Endeavour astronauts before they knew they?d have company for dinner.

?Sincethen, we?ve sort have been sort of collecting now that we?re going to be herewith the ISS crew,? said Endeavour mission specialist Steve Bowen. ?And now wehave enough food for everyone onboard, which is part of Thanksgiving anyway,sharing what you have.?

Endeavouris due to undock from the space station on Friday and land on Sunday afternoon.

NASA isproviding live coverage of Endeavour's STS-126 mission on NASA TV. Click here for's missioncoverage and NASA TV feed.

  • New Video - Drinking Water From Space Urine
  • New Images - Stunning Views Endeavour's STS-126 Night Launch
  • Video - Space Station Acrobatics

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

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.