Students name space station connecting hub
BY JUSTIN RAY
Posted: March 15, 2007
The space station's connecting module that will serve as the gateway to international science laboratories has been given a name -- Harmony -- following a nationwide contest for schoolchildren.
"It's a wonderful name," Melroy told reporters moments after the name was revealed. "It really gives a sense of identity to the payload that we are delivering. So I've been anxious to get the name for a while."
The module flies on mission STS-120, which had been slated for liftoff August 26. But the ripple effect from delays caused by the recent hail storm damage has put the shuttle launch schedule is disarray. A new launch date for Harmony hasn't been set.
The two-week mission will see the module temporarily mounted to the station's initial connecting node, called Unity, that launched in 1998 to join the U.S. and Russian segments of the outpost. Once Atlantis departs, the station's resident crew will remove the cone-shaped shuttle docking port from the front of the U.S. Destiny laboratory module and mount that to Harmony. Then the module is relocated to Destiny where it becomes the new doorway for visiting shuttles.
Three spacewalks and complex robot arm operations by the station crew are required to complete the assembly job before the next shuttle can arrive.
The new hub is crucial to the upcoming international expansion of the station. The European Columbus laboratory and Japan's Kibo science facilities will be installed on opposite sides of the multi-port Harmony. In addition, the module is equipped to serve as living quarters for three people when the station crew doubles in size to six later in the assembly sequence.
Students from across the U.S. competed in an educational contest to name Harmony. NASA said more than 2,200 kindergarten through high school students from 32 states took part in the Node 2 Challenge that required students to learn about the station, build a scale model and write an essay explaining their proposed name.
"The challenge of our generation of astronauts is to build the International Space Station. But the challenge of the next generation of astronauts is to go to the moon and Mars," Melroy said. "Somewhere out there a child, probably about the same age as the children who participated in this contest, is going to be the first human being to step foot on Mars. For all we know, this opportunity to participate in a contest actually will inspire them to be the astronauts, the technicians and rocket scientists of the future."
Six different schools submitted the winning name. NASA says Harmony was selected because "the name symbolizes the spirit of international cooperation embodied by the space station, as well as the module's specific role in connecting the international partner modules."
The winning schools are:
"With this competition and similar ones, NASA continues its tradition of investing and engaging in the nation's education programs. These types of academic competitions involve students, educators, families and the general public and help them participate in our nation's space exploration program," said Joyce Winterton, assistant administrator for Education.
"This module will allow all international partner pieces of the station to connect together, so it's really wonderful that kids recognize that harmony is necessary for space cooperation," said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations.