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2/17/2010
08:40 AM
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Astronauts Open Windows On The World

Endeavour crew takes the wraps off new space station module that offers panoramic views of the Earth and other celestial bodies.

Shuttle crew members performed an overnight spacewalk to open a new observatory on the International Space Station.

The astronauts exited the shuttle Endeavour late Tuesday to begin the 5-hour, 48 minute spacewalk, and returned at 3:03 a.m. EST Wednesday.

Outside Endeavour, crewmembers Robert Behnken and Nicholas Patrick removed insulation blankets from the space station's new cupola, a robotic, windowed control station that offers 360-degree, space-front views through seven windows.

Endeavour pilot Terry Virts then opened the windows one at a time while mission specialist Kathryn Hire congratulated the crew for "raising the curtain on a bay window to the world," according to NASA.

Also during the spacewalk, Behnken opened an ammonia loop that's designed to let coolant flow through the space station's new Tranquility module, which houses the cupola, and Patrick connected heater and data cables.

Additionally, the spacewalkers installed handrails on Tranquility, and closed a centerline camera flap and relocated a foot restraint on the Harmony module.

Endeavour's current mission saw the astronauts perform three spacewalks in total to conduct maintenance and repair operations on the ISS. The shuttle blasted off at 4:14 a.m. Monday, following a one-day delay caused by inclement weather.

Endeavour is carrying a five-member crew, including commander George Zamka, pilot Virts, and mission specialists Hire, Steve Robinson, and Nicholas Patrick.

STS-130 is Endeavour's 24th flight and the 130th for the space shuttle program overall. NASA is cancelling the program at the end of 2010, and there are only four remaining missions scheduled through the remainder of this year.

InformationWeek has published a report on how telepresence is turning video communications into a near in-person experience. Download the report here (registration required).

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