STS-124: Growing Hope
What good is a pressurized logistics module if it can't really be used yet?
Since March 2008, that's been the question facing the crews of the International Space Station. Several months ago, the STS-123 space shuttle mission delivered the first part of the space station's new Japanese laboratory. The lab is named "Kibo," which means "hope." Kibo consists of five pieces and will require three space shuttle flights before it is completely delivered.
The element delivered on the STS-123 mission was the Experiment Logistics Module-Pressurized Section. The pressurized logistics module will serve as a storage area, which will allow the crew to fully use the laboratory module.
That installation left the station with a logistics module but no laboratory to use.
The STS-124 mission will change that by carrying two more pieces of Kibo to the space station. The Kibo Pressurized Module is the laboratory in which astronauts will be able to conduct scientific research. Kibo is about the size of a large tour bus and will be the station's largest laboratory. It will feature 10 experiment racks where astronauts will conduct microgravity research that will focus on space medicine, biology, Earth observations, material production, biotechnology and communications research. Kibo experiments and systems will be operated from mission control in Japan just north of Tokyo.
When completed, Kibo will also feature an exposed experiment platform, where research can be conducted remotely in the vacuum of space. The second component to be delivered by STS-124 will be an important part of the exposed experiments. The Japanese Remote Manipulator System will be the space station's third robotic arm and will operate experiments on Kibo's exterior platform.
The two final elements of Kibo -- the exposed facility and its logistics module -- will be delivered to the space station on the STS-127 shuttle mission in 2009.
Mark Kelly is the commander of the STS-124 mission and last visited the International Space Station in July 2006 as pilot of the STS-121 mission. Pilot Ken Ham will be making his first spaceflight. Mission specialists for the flight will be Karen Nyberg, Ron Garan and Mike Fossum, along with Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
Joining the crew on the flight to the International Space Station will be Greg Chamitoff, who will remain in orbit as a member of the crew of the International Space Station. Expedition 17 flight engineer Garrett Reisman, who has been aboard the station since March, will return to Earth on STS-124.
The STS-124 mission is an important step in preparing for the future of spaceflight. NASA is currently working to carry out a long-term plan that will lead to humans' returning to the moon and beyond. Currently, NASA is working to complete the International Space Station by the time the shuttle fleet is retired in 2010. The space station serves as an important platform for learning how to live in space and will be vital to exploration as human space travel extends farther from Earth.
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Hope Takes Flight on Shuttle Discovery
Kibo Japanese Experiment Module
International Space Station
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David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services