Harmony connecting module put in place aboard station
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: November 14, 2007
The international space station's crew today detached the new multi-hatch Harmony module, now sporting a shuttle docking port on one end, and carefully moved the 34,500-pound assembly to its permanent home on the front of the lab complex. The high-stakes robotic operation was completed without a hitch, a critical step in a complex sequence to prepare the outpost for launch of Europe's Columbus research lab next month.
Station commander Peggy Whitson, working at a computer console in the Destiny module, sent commands to drive out 16 motorized bolts, unlatching Harmony from its mounting point on the central Unity module's left port around 4:21 a.m. Flight engineer Dan Tani, operating the station's robot arm, then slowly pulled Harmony away as the lab complex sailed high above eastern Canada.
"We've got some beautiful downlink," astronaut Kevin Ford radioed from Houston, marveling at spectacular video showing Harmony suspended above the blue-and-white limb of the Earth as the station raced into sunlight.
"It is amazing," Whitson agreed.
Harmony was launched to the station late last month aboard the shuttle Discovery and temporarily mounted on Unity's left-side port. Before it could be moved to its permanent location on the front of the Destiny module, the station crew had to detach the lab's shuttle docking port, known as pressurized mating adapter No. 2, or PMA-2, and bolt it to Harmony. That work was carried out by Whitson and Tani early Monday.
Today's operation, the most significant module relocation ever attempted in the absence of a space shuttle, took a little more than an hour to complete.
"Have I mentioned lately how much I love nominal ops?" Whitson joked as the attachment procedure concluded well ahead of schedule.
"This is a treat, isn't it?" Ford replied.
A few minutes later, Tani reported he was done with robot arm operations, clearing flight controllers to resume rotation of the station's left-side solar arrays to track the sun.
"And this, I think, officially ends all of my planned robotic operations for my mission here," Tani said. "I want to thank all the people on the ground who helped me get to this point without a single 'all stop' call from the ground, which I consider my personal badge of success."
After thanking his trainers by name, Tani said "I have really enjoyed running the arm and hopefully I didn't scare too many people down there. It's been my honor to install the Harmony in its final location. Thank you everybody. Now, go on vacation!"
"Hey Dan, thanks for the call down," Ford said. "And believe it or not, most of those people you mentioned are awake at this hour, actually paying attention to what you were doing. We were nowhere close to an 'all stop' call. ... It all looked beautiful from the ground."
With Harmony and PMA-2 permanently attached to the front of the Destiny module, Whitson and Tani plan to stage two spacewalks Nov. 20 and 24 to connect the new module to the station's main power and cooling systems, plugging in electrical cables and ammonia coolant lines from the station's power truss.
Additional work is required inside Harmony to activate critical systems. If all goes well, NASA hopes to launch the European Space Agency's Columbus module on Dec. 6, attaching it to Harmony's right-side port. A Japanese module scheduled for launch in February will be temporarily attached to an upward-facing port until the larger Kibo laboratory can be mounted on Harmony's left-side port in April. The smaller module then will be moved to a hatch on the far end of Kibo.
At the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, engineers are readying Atlantis and Columbus for takeoff at launch complex 39A. A shuttle readiness review Tuesday found no major issues that would prevent an on-time launch, but the schedule depends on the station crew's completion of the Harmony relocation and activation.
A final readiness review by senior management is planned for Nov. 30.