Astronauts Open Space Station's Newest Room

Astronauts Attach New Russian Science Module to Space Station
The space shuttle Atlantis' robotic arm grabs the new Russian research module Rassvet and lifts it out of the shuttle's payload bay to begin transferring it over to its new home on the station's Zarya module. (Image credit: NASA TV)

This story was updated at 7:22 a.m. EDT.

Atlantis shuttle astronauts and the crew of theInternational Space Station opened the station's newest room Thursday, aRussian research module that doubles as a spaceship docking port.

The $200 million new room, called the Mini ResearchModule-1, or Rassvet ("Dawn" in Russian), was delivered by Atlantisand attached to the station's Zarya module on Tuesday. Once it's up andrunning, the 19.7-foot (6-meter) long Rassvet will be used for storage andscientific research by the station crew. It will also provide another docking portfor visiting Russian spacecraft to link up to. [Graphic: Russia'sRassvet space module.]

"It?s a big piece of Russian hardware," Atlantismission specialist Piers Sellers said in a preflight interview. "It?sabout the size of a small Winnebago."

The crew checked for leaks in the seal between Rassvet andZarya, and once astronauts determined the modules were linked up correctly, theyopened the new lab for the first time on Thursday at 6:52 a.m. EDT (1052 GMT).

"Everything looks normal, everything is great,"station commander Oleg Kotov radioed down to Mission Control.?????

After opening the door, spaceflyers installed an air filterto clean out the air inside. The complete unpacking and set-up of the new labwill take place after Atlantis leaves the station.

The Atlantisastronauts ? who are about half-way through the 12-day STS-132mission ? woke up Thursday morning at 1:59 a.m. EDT (0559 GMT) to the song"Welcome to the Working Week" by Elvis Costello, played especiallyfor mission specialist Stephen Bowen.

"I want to thank my family for picking such a greatsong," Bowen said.

After their work on Rassvet, the spaceflyers will transfercargo, such as food, supplies and spare parts, from Atlantis onto the spacestation. In the afternoon, the crew plans to take some well-deserved time off.

"Both crews have a fairly light day," lead space stationflight director Emily Nelson said, referring to the space station and spaceshuttle crews.

Mission specialists Garrett Reisman and Michael Good will preparefor their spacewalk,set to take place on Friday ? the third and final planned for the STS-132mission. At 4:15 p.m. EDT (2015 GMT) on Thursday, the two astronauts will moveinto the station's Quest airlock and camp out there for the night.

By lowering the pressure inside the airlock and sleepingthere the night before a spacewalk, the astronauts purge nitrogen from theirbloodstream, which helps reduce the risk of decompression sickness (also knownas "the bends"). is providing complete coverage of Atlantis'STS-132 mission to the International Space Station with Senior Writer ClaraMoskowitz and Managing Editor Tariq Malik based in New York. Click here for shuttlemission updates and a link to NASA TV.

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Clara Moskowitz
Assistant Managing Editor

Clara Moskowitz is a science and space writer who joined the team in 2008 and served as Assistant Managing Editor from 2011 to 2013. Clara has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She covers everything from astronomy to human spaceflight and once aced a NASTAR suborbital spaceflight training program for space missions. Clara is currently Associate Editor of Scientific American. To see her latest project is, follow Clara on Twitter.