STS-127: Hope Fulfilled
Thanks to the STS-127 space shuttle mission, researchers soon will be exposed to new opportunities.
Specifically, they'll be exposed to opportunities presented by the newest addition to the International Space Station -- the Japanese laboratory module's Exposed Facility.
The Exposed Facility will complete the Japanese lab module Kibo (which means "Hope"). Components of Kibo were delivered previously on two other shuttle flights.
In March 2008, the STS-123 mission delivered the Experiment Logistics Module-Pressurized Section. The pressurized logistics module serves as a storage area that will allow the crew to fully use the laboratory module. Then, in June 2008, the STS-124 mission carried 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.
STS-127 will deliver the Exposed Facility, where research can be conducted remotely in the vacuum of space. This capability will allow scientists to study the effects to material samples of exposure to the space environment. The crew also will install the Japanese Remote Manipulator System, which will be the space station's third robotic arm and will operate experiments on Kibo's exterior platform.
Kibo is about the size of a large tour bus and will be the station's largest laboratory. It features 10 experiment racks where astronauts will conduct microgravity research focusing on space medicine, biology, Earth observations, material production, biotechnology and communications research. Kibo experiments and systems are operated from mission control in Japan just north of Tokyo.
The STS-127 crew will conduct a series of five spacewalks during the mission.
Mark Polansky will be Endeavour's commander for the STS-127 mission. He has visited the space station twice before, as pilot for the STS-98 mission in 2001 and as commander of STS-116 in 2006. The STS-127 pilot is Doug Hurley, who is making his first spaceflight.
Mission specialists for the flight are Christopher Cassidy, Tom Marshburn, Dave Wolf and Julie Payette. It also is the first spaceflight for Cassidy and Marshburn. Wolf previously visited the space station on STS-112 in 2002. On one of his two flights before STS-112, he lived on the Russian Mir space station for four months. Payette, of the Canadian Space Agency, previously flew in 1999 on STS-96, which delivered supplies to the International Space Station.
Joining the STS-127 crew for the flight into orbit will be astronaut Tim Kopra, who will remain on the space station as a member of its Expedition 20 crew. Kopra will be making his first spaceflight. Expedition 20 will be the first space station mission to double the size of the station's crew from three astronauts to six.
Space station flight engineer Koichi Wakata will return to Earth aboard Endeavour with the STS-127 crew. Wakata is the first astronaut from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to make a long-duration stay on the International Space Station. He began his stay on the space station during the STS-119 space shuttle mission in March 2009.
The STS-127 mission is an important step in preparing for the future of spaceflight. NASA is working to carry out a long-term plan that will lead to humans' returning to the moon and traveling to other destinations beyond. Currently, NASA is working to complete the International Space Station by the time the shuttle fleet is retired in 2010. The space station is an important platform for learning how to live in space and will be vital to exploration as human space travel extends farther from Earth.
NASA is committed to building strategic partnerships and links between science, technology, engineering and mathematics formal and informal educators. Through hands-on, interactive educational activities, NASA is engaging students, educators, families, the public and all agency stakeholders to increase scientific and technological literacy in the United States.
International Space Station
David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services