STS-126: Home Improvement in Space
STS-126 crew

The STS-126 astronauts will prepare the space station to support a larger crew. Chris Ferguson, commander, is at center; and Eric Boe, pilot, is third from the right. Remaining crew members, pictured from left to right, are astronauts Sandra Magnus, Steve Bowen, Donald Pettit, Shane Kimbrough and Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, all mission specialists. Image Credit: NASA

With the International Space Station's family about to grow bigger, the time has come to remodel.

In spring 2009, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft will arrive at the space station, bringing three new station astronauts. Instead of replacing the current crew members, these new arrivals will join them, doubling the size of the station's crew from three to six.

Before more people can move in, a few home improvement projects need to be completed. To complete the project, NASA is sending a team of out-of-this-world remodelers -- the crew of the STS-126 space shuttle mission.

Endeavour will carry a reusable logistics module in its payload bay, filled with new equipment to make the space station more livable for its expanded crew. New sleeping quarters will provide a place for the crew members to sleep and keep their personal effects. A resistance exercise device will help the crew keep in shape, vital when making long-duration stays in microgravity. Food equipment will supplement the galley in the Russian section of the space station. And a new regenerative life support system will recycle the atmosphere to provide water for the crew.

In addition to remodeling, the STS-126 mission will include some home repair work. For more than a year, the space station has been experiencing a problem with the solar arrays on its starboard side. Rotary joints allow the arrays to move to track the sun as the station orbits Earth. During a spacewalk, astronauts found metal shavings in the joint, evidence that parts in the joint had been grinding against each other. On STS-126, astronauts will replace bearings in the joint, clean up the shavings and lubricate the joint parts.

The STS-126 patch shows the shuttle, the space station, Earth, the moon, stars, Mars and the names of the astronauts

With Orion, the moon and Mars in the background, the STS-126 mission patch depicts this flight as a stepping stone toward the future of space exploration. Image Credit: NASA

Chris Ferguson will be the commander of the STS-126 mission. He will be making his second spaceflight, having previously visited the space station as the pilot of STS-115. Pilot Eric Boe will be making his first flight on STS-126. The mission specialists will be Steve Bowen, Shane Kimbrough, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper and Donald Pettit. Only Piper and Pettit have flown before. Piper was a member of the STS-115 shuttle crew with Ferguson. Pettit lived on the space station for six months as a member of its Expedition 6 crew.

Joining the STS-126 crew for the flight to the space station will be astronaut Sandra Magnus. She will stay on the space station as a member of the Expedition 18 crew. Flight Engineer Greg Chamitoff will return to Earth on Endeavour after living on the space station since June 2008.

The STS-126 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 space station by the time the shuttle fleet is retired in 2010. The orbiting complex serves as an important platform for learning how to live and work in space and will be vital to exploration as human space travel extends farther from Earth.

NASA is committed to building strategic partnerships and linkages 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.

Related Resources:
Michael Fincke Preflight Interview
International Space Station
Space Shuttle
Environmental Control and Life Support Systems Water Filtration Challenge Educator Guide
NASA Education

David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services