If you have not been following the work going on during the space shuttle mission, here's an update --
In one of the record-setting five space walks scheduled for this space shuttle mission, astronauts swung open the door to their new space station addition Saturday and floated into the spacious and sparkling white room, formally christening it Harmony.
Even though it looked immaculate inside, international space station commander Peggy Whitson and Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli — the first to enter — wore surgical masks and goggles to protect themselves from any dirty stowaways, like dust, lint or crumbs. The air inside the school bus-size chamber was immediately tested.
Harmony was named by schoolchildren in America but made in Italy, and Nespoli proudly noted that as he bobbed up and down in the 24-foot-long, 14-foot-diameter chamber that was delivered by shuttle Discovery.
The European Space Agency's science laboratory, named Columbus, will hook onto Harmony as early as December. The Japanese Space Agency's lab — called Kibo or in English, Hope — will latch onto Harmony early next year.
Harmony also will function as a nerve center, providing air, electricity and water for the space station. It was launched with racks of computer and electronic equipment. All this gear had to be locked down for the jarring rocket ride to orbit, leaving the astronauts to undo more than 700 bolts to free up the equipment.
Perhaps just as important, Harmony will provide extra living space for the three space station residents. It is the station's seventh room; the first one was launched in 1998.
The space station's crew will move Harmony to its permanent location after Discovery leaves in another week. Until then, the astronauts will be restricted on how long they can spend inside the new compartment because of the makeshift ventilation system currently in place.