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Tour Russia's new Nauka space station module with these astronaut home movies

Home movies from a Russian cosmonaut on the International Space Station have revealed the first glimpses inside the orbiting laboratory's newest expansion: a science lab called Nauka. 

Nauka, also known as the Multipurpose Laboratory Module, launched to the station in late July after years of delay and a dramatic arrival on July 29. After docking itself with the orbiting lab, Nauka's thrusters fired unexpectedly, spinning the space station around one and a half times, but crewmembers did not report any problems when they finally opened the module hatch for the first time.

The first video tour of inside Nauka came from Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, who flew through the newly opened module in orbit and took handheld video shots of Earth. He uploaded two videos of his work — one briefly touring through the module and another where he flies through the lab to gaze out the window — on Monday (Aug. 23). Novitskiy also shared photos on Twitter of the module's interior and of Earth, as seen through Nauka's window.

Video: Watch cosmonauts explore Russia's new Nauka space station module 

Then came a more detailed tour of Nauka from the European Space Agency's Thomas Pesquet. "We are glad to have experienced this module's arrival," Pesquet said in French, subtitled in English. 

"We had an adventurous start following its docking," Pesquet said, noting it was because the module falsely thought it was flying autonomously after docking. "We quickly corrected the situation. That's space for you. Sometimes it doesn't work exactly like you'd hope."

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy shows off his window on Earth inside the new Nauka science module on the International Space Station. (Image credit: Roscosmos/Oleg Novitskiy)
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While being filmed by another crew member, Pesquet guided the video camera to the "Russian side" of the space station, which is through a narrow passageway surrounded by cargo. The duo floated over tanks, cooling pipes and stowed materials to make it to the far side of the station, where Nauka is docked at an Earth-facing port, the old home of the station's Pirs docking module that was deliberately deorbited last month after 20 years in service.

Pesquet moved "down" (in the view of the camera) beside the newly opened Nauka hatch, explaining that in space, it smells a little smoky after you get the door open for the first time. "To me it smells kind of like sunscreen. It's the thermal cycle, being exposed to the sun's heat, [which] creates this kind of special smell."

Noting the crowded space around him, Pesquet explained the module was filled with equipment upon arrival, which the crew hasn't yet had time to empty. He noted the new toilet Nauka brought — the third for the orbiting complex, which will be useful for bigger crews arriving on U.S. commercial crew vehicles. 

Other features of Nauka include equipment racks, a station for the new European Robotic Arm (the station is still under construction, Pesquet said), and a small crew cabin called Kayuta (temporarily being used for storage). 

The docking area includes the new window – "it's rather big, actually," Pesquet said while floating beside it. He added it will be another useful tool for observing Earth. Spaceflyers also typically use the Cupola, an Italian-built panoramic window installed on the space station with the Tranquility module in 2010. Cupola is also used for berthing operations using the station's Canadarm2.

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Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for Space.com who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is the author or co-author of several books on space exploration. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota in Space Studies, and an M.Sc. from the same department. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University in Canada, where she began her space-writing career in 2004. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level, and for government training schools. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @howellspace.