Astronauts will enter new Columbus lab module today
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: February 12, 2008
Wearing a protective mask and safety goggles, European Space Agency astronaut Leopold Eyharts plans to enter the new Columbus science lab today, kicking off a busy month of activation and commissioning for the space station's newest module.
"There is a sight that everybody in Europe has been looking forward to for a very, very long time: Columbus now attached to the (station), ESA Program Manager Alan Thirkettle said Monday after the lab was successfully installed. "February the 11th was another great day for the European Space Agency, a great day for our European industry and a great day for Europe in general.
"The mechanical guys have done their bit," he said. Today, "we get the electricians and the plumbers in to hook it up ... and go through activation and go through ingress into the module. Leo will get himself nicely dressed up in his goggles and his mask and everything, but he'll go inside and see that the inside looks just as good as the outside of this thing.
"So now we have four of the international partners with their elements on the station," Thirkettle said. "It's really becoming the 'international' space station and we're very, very much looking forward to having the fifth partner (Japan) join us next month. ... It's really a nice partnership."
The bus-size Columbus module was attached to the right-side hatch of the forward Harmony connecting module (also known as Node 2). The station's robot arm remained attached to the new module overnight, providing power to internal heaters until the astronauts can plug in normal station power, along with data lines and ammonia coolant loops, later today.
The flight plan called for Eyharts to make a so-called partial ingress into the module around 8:50 a.m., although that could move earlier. The crew will officially enter the module to begin its outfitting around 2:55 p.m.
"Today's the big day where we're going to activate the Columbus module," station Flight Director Ron Spencer said early today. "Right now, it's just structurally attached to station. The crew actually started part of this last night before they went to bed. There's a small pressurized volume in between the Columbus hatch and the Node 2 hatch and so they did a leak check of that to make sure that area can hold pressure before they enter that area this morning.
"This morning what they're going to be doing is, first they're going to start by hooking up power jumpers, fluid lines, data lines to allow Columbus to receive power and other resources from space station," Spencer said. "Once that's done, they'll open up the hatch and go inside. ... The ground, once they get these power jumpers hooked up and the data lines and fluid lines to allow it to talk to station, the ground teams are going to start turning on systems inside Columbus, turning on the power boxes, computers, life support systems, et cetera. So it's a busy day for the station crew to get that going."
Station commander Peggy Whitson and Atlantis astronaut Hans Schlegel, a European Space Agency specialist in Columbus systems, will oversee connection of power, data and coolant lines.
"As soon as Peggy and Hans get the jumpers hooked up to allow Columbus to receive ground commands, then it's the Columbus flight controllers (near Munich, Germany) who are actually going to be turning on the systems and they'll have control of it from that moment," Spencer said.
Here is an updated timeline of today's activities (in EST and mission elapsed time; includes revision E of the NASA television schedule; best viewed with fixed-width font):
EST........DD...HH...MM...EVENT 02/12/08 04:45 AM...04...14...00...STS/ISS crew wakeup 06:15 AM...04...15...30...Flight director update on NASA TV 06:35 AM...04...15...50...ISS daily planning conference 07:45 AM...04...17...00...Logistics transfers 07:55 AM...04...17...10...Station robot arm (SSRMS) ungrapples Columbus module 08:45 AM...04...18...00...Power jumper installed 08:53 AM...04...18...05...PAO event (Frick, Melvin, Walheim, Love) 08:50 AM...04...18...05...Partial ingress into Columbus module 09:15 AM...04...18...30...Shuttle KU-band antenna redeploy 11:05 AM...04...20...20...Cooling system jumper installed 11:30 AM...04...20...45...Crew meals begin 01:00 PM...04...22...15...EVA-2: Airlock preps 01:45 PM...04...23...00...EVA-2: Tools prepped 02:55 PM...05...00...10...Columbus module ingress 03:30 PM...05...00...45...Mission status briefing on NASA TV 04:35 PM...05...01...50...PAO event (Frick, Poindexter, Schlegel) 04:55 PM...05...02...10...EVA-2: Procedures review 07:00 PM...05...04...15...EVA-2: Mask pre-breathe for campout 07:55 PM...05...05...10...EVA-2: Campout begins (10.2 psi depress) 08:15 PM...05...05...30...ISS crew sleep begins 08:45 PM...05...06...00...STS crew sleep begins 09:00 PM...05...06...15...Daily video highlights reel on NASA TV
Masks and goggles are required during initial Columbus outfitting to protect against the possibility of eye irritation or inhalation of any particulates left over from construction, known as foreign object debris, or FOD.
"You build it in a clean environment and you take great steps to keep from generating foreign object debris," said Kirk Shireman, deputy space station program manager at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. "It can be something as simple as metal shavings when you're drilling a hole into a bracket. So we go through great efforts to keep that stuff as clean as we can. ... But when you build in a one-(gravity) environment, you can have FOD that falls down behind (something) and is not visible to you. When you get in zero G, it all floats up and floats around.
"And so we have the crew wear protective goggles and masks until we have a certain amount of air recycling," he said. "When we turn the fans on and recycle that air, all that debris that's floating around will make its way to filters in front of the fans. There's a certain number of times we turn over the atmosphere in the module and after that, the requirements to wear goggles and masks is relieved."
Once inside the new module, Eyharts and his crewmates will get busy with commissioning activities, re-arranging science racks in preparation for the start of normal science operations over the next few weeks.
"When everything is up and running we'll be able to ingress the module and do the first installation of equipment inside the module," Eyharts said in a NASA interview. "This is, of course, a very important part of our work because, for instance, the scientific racks (were) not be launched in their final position because of some issues with the center of gravity of the shuttle. So once the module is attached to the station we have to move a few of the scientific racks into their final location, and, in addition, install other equipment."
This afternoon, the astronauts will review plans for a spacewalk Wednesday to replace a spent nitrogen tank used to pressurize the station's ammonia coolant system. Rex Walheim and Schlegel are scheduled to spend the night in the station's Quest airlock module to help purge nitrogen from their bloodstreams before working in NASA's lower-pressure space suits.
Schlegel was replaced by astronaut Stan Love for the first spacewalk of the mission Monday due to a medical problem. Spencer said today Schlegel will participate in the second spacewalk as originally planned.