NASA: Space station getting room with a view

NASA's Endeavour astronauts are in the process of adding a room with a view to the International Space Station.

A seven-window cupola was attached to the space station in the wee hours of Monday morning and during the mission's third and final spacewalk tonight, three astronauts will remove the covers that shielded the windows during launch. At that point, the cupola, which will serve as a central command post for the station's robotics work, will provide the space station crew with a stellar view.

The cupola was attached to the Italian-built node, dubbed Tranquility , during their trip last week to the space station on board the space shuttle Endeavour .

Last week, the space station's robotic arm, Canadarm II, reached into the shuttle's payload bay and pulled out the node, which was still attached to the cupola. The arm moved Tranquility into its permanent position as an addition to the station.

Then early Monday morning, the robotic arm grabbed onto the cupola, detached it from the node and moved it into its own permanent spot on the station. Sixteen remote-controlled bolts secured the cupola to the station.

As part of tonight's six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk, astronauts Robert Behnken and Nicholas Patrick are set to remove the insulation from the cupola's seven windows and release the bolts that held the covers in place over the windows during launch, according to NASA. After that, astronauts will be able to unshutter and shutter the windows from the inside.

Astronauts will be able to view a lot of the outside work and manipulate the robotic arms from the cupola.

Tonight's spacewalk is scheduled to begin at 9:09 p.m. ET.

Aside from working on the cupola's windows, the spacewalking astronauts also are scheduled to continue the setup of the new Tranquility node. The spacewalkers are slated to disconnect temporary power cables and open the second of two ammonia loops to allow coolant to flow through Tranquility.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld . Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin , send e-mail to or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed .

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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