Plumbing Info

courtesy of BBC News

A Nasa shuttle, carrying seven astronauts, has docked with the International Space Station as part of a mission to refit its living quarters.

The Endeavour is carrying 14,000lb (6,350kg) of fittings to allow the station to accommodate six crew members instead of the current three.

A new astronaut, Sandra Magnus, is also joining the ISS crew.

“International Space Station is indeed ready for extreme home makeover,” joked ISS station commander Mike Fincke.

Endeavour docked with the ISS at 2201 GMT, a few minutes earlier than scheduled, as the spacecraft passed over India.

‘Extreme make-over’

Engineers studying film of Endeavour’s launch from Florida have found no obvious signs of damage from debris.

At least two pieces were spotted during the launch on Friday night, raising concern that a narrow strip of thermal blanket might have been torn off.

Such inspections are standard since the Columbia disaster of 2003, when debris from the external tank struck the shuttle, damaging the heat shield and causing its destruction as it tried to re-enter the atmosphere. All seven crew members died.

This is the final orbiter mission of 2008.

Four space walks are planned on the 15-day flight, including repairs to joint damage on the ISS’s solar arrays.

The mission has been dubbed Extreme Home Improvements. It will see the crew installing new crew quarters, with an additional bathroom and a galley.

There will be two new sleeping compartments, more exercise gear and a second toilet. Nasa plans to double the station’s crew size as early as May.

Also in the cargo is a water regeneration system that distills, filters, ionizes and oxidizes wastewater – including urine – into fresh water for drinking.

The equipment has been packed inside refrigerator-sized racks that require forklifts to lift them on Earth but in space, a single astronaut can move a rack around with little problem.

The fresh crew member is due to replace Gregory Chamitoff.

Endeavour and its crew are due to land back at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on 30 November.

The flight is the fourth mission of the year.

Nasa had hoped to fly a servicing call to the Hubble Space Telescope last month but delayed the mission to May 2009 to prepare for some additional repair work on the observatory.

In all, Nasa plans 10 more shuttle flights before the fleet is retired in 2010.

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