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Astronauts Take a Break From Busy Space Mission

Astronauts Complain of Stuffy Heads in Space
Astronauts Rick Sturckow (bottom), STS-128 commander; Danny Olivas (right) and Patrick Forrester, both mission specialists, are pictured near the hatch on the middeck of Space Shuttle Discovery after docking with the International Space Station on Aug. 30, 2009.
(Image: © NASA.)

Astronautstook a hard-earned break from work aboard the International Space StationFriday as they hit the midpoint of a busy mission to boost the outpost?sscience gear and supplies.

The 13astronauts aboard the docked station and shuttleDiscovery had a half-day off from their joint mission, time enough to gazedown at their home planet or simply enjoy flying in weightlessness.

?Sometimes,you?ve just got to look out the window and enjoy the view,? shuttle astronautJose Hernandez told reporters in a televised interview this week. ?It?s justbreathtaking and I can?t describe it with words. It?s just indescribable.?

Hernandez,a former migrantfarm worker who applied for 12 straight years to be an astronaut, said the missionhas been busy, but also one to savor. He has been posting daily updates inEnglish and Spanish via Twitter as @Astro_Jose.

?It?s a great,great experience,? he said. ?A great feeling.?

Hernandezand his crewmates plan to discuss their mission late Friday night withreporters on Earth.

Spacedebris misses station

Friday?stime off came hours after a large chunkof space debris buzzed by the space station at about 11:07 a.m. EDT (1507GMT).

The orbitaljunk, part of a 3-year-old European rocket booster, came within a mile (1.3 km)of the linked space station and shuttle when it zoomed ahead of thespacecraft from the left to the right. NASA had tracked the space debris fordays and found that it posed absolutelyzero risk of hitting the station-shuttle complex or endangering its astronautcrew.

?We knewthat it was going to be a near-miss without a threat of collision,? station flightengineer Ron Spencer told reporters late Friday. ?Because this object was sowell-tracked, we calculated that the probability of collision was zero.?

Time offin space

The space junk?snear-miss went relatively unnoticed by the station and shuttle crews Fridaymorning since the astronauts were in the middle of their sleep period. Theywoke up at noon for their rest day in space.

?We willcertainly give them some time to enjoy for themselves,? space station flightdirector Heather Rarick told reporters early Friday. ?We?re hoping that they dotake some time to rest up.?

It is onlythe second time ever that 13 astronauts, sevenon the shuttle and six on the station, have been together in space.

Discoverycommander Rick Sturckow and his crew are in the midst of a 13-day mission todeliver nearly 8 tons of new science gear and supplies to the space station.They have already completed most of their cargo transfer and performed two ofthree planned spacewalks, with the last one set for Friday.

Discoveryis due to undock from the space station on Tuesday.

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SPACE.comis providing complete coverage of Discovery's STS-128 mission to theInternational Space Station with Managing Editor Tariq Malik and Staff WriterClara Moskowitz in New York. Clickhere for shuttle mission updates and a link to NASA TV.


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