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Japans space lab about to get bigger
Space Shuttle 5096566
In this image from NASA TV astronaut Michael Fossum works to install the second of two television cameras onto the Japanese Kibo module during a spacewalk at the international space station, Thursday, June 5, 2008. - photo by Associated Press
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The newest space station addition, a giant Japanese science lab, is about to get bigger.
    After installing TV cameras and removing covers during a spacewalk Thursday, the astronauts at the linked shuttle and station got ready for their next challenge: attaching a storage shed to the bus-sized lab. The 210-mile construction job was set for Friday afternoon.
    The lab, named Kibo, Japanese for hope, is so big that it had to be split into three shuttle missions to get to the international space station. Its 14-foot storage shed was delivered in March and left in a temporary parking spot. The third and final section, a porch, will be launched next spring.
    Shuttle Discovery’s commander, Mark Kelly, said Kibo may not smell like a new car, but ‘‘it has a new car feel to it.’’
    ‘‘It’s incredibly big, a lot of room so you have to be a little extra careful. You can get out in the middle of it and you can’t reach a handrail and you could possibly get stuck there for a little while,’’ Kelly told The Associated Press on Friday.
    The space station’s commander, Russian Sergei Volkov, said the blue curtain, or Japanese noren, hanging over Kibo’s threshold is a homey touch, and he’ll leave it up for a while.
    In a series of broadcast interviews from the space station, Volkov said the toilet was now working fine, thanks to the new pump delivered earlier in the week by Discovery. It had been broken for two weeks, forcing him and his two crewmates to manually flush with extra water several times a day.
    ‘‘When you’re going to be a cosmonaut or astronaut, you have to be ready for some inconvenience,’’ Volkov told the AP. They weren’t too frustrated about the situation, he added.
    One of the space station’s newest occupants — Buzz Lightyear — joined the 10 astronauts and cosmonauts for dinner on Thursday night, and was seen looking out the window and ringing the space station’s bell. The Disney action figure, made famous in the 1995 film ‘‘Toy Story,’’ flew up on Discovery and moved into the space station for a six-month stay, as part of NASA’s toys-in-space educational program.
    Spacewalkers Michael Fossum and Ronald Garan Jr., meanwhile, looked like puffy white dolls Thursday against the 37-foot-long, 14-foot-wide lab, which is now the space station’s biggest room.
    It was their second spacewalk in three days.
    ‘‘I feel like I’m on a camping trip trying to pack up a wet tent on a Sunday morning,’’ Fossum said as he wrestled with some of the lab’s insulation. He and Garan removed thermal covers from the lab’s robot arm and added them to a variety of attachment points.
    As the spacewalkers toiled outside, their eight colleagues hauled more racks for experiments into the billion-dollar lab, and flight controllers near Tokyo monitored the power systems.
    Even with all the racks moving in, Kibo was still noticeably bigger than the eight other rooms at the space station. ‘‘We have not seen that much space in space since Skylab,’’ Mission Control told the astronauts in a written message. Skylab was NASA’s first space station, back in the 1970s.
    Discovery’s astronauts delivered and installed Kibo earlier in the week. There are now three labs at the orbiting complex, supplied by NASA, the European Space Agency and, now, the Japanese Space Agency.
    On Saturday, the astronauts will test drive Kibo’s 33-foot robot arm. The two TV cameras that were set up on the lab’s exterior Thursday will be instrumental in those robot-arm operations.
    And on Sunday, one final spacewalk will be conducted to replace an empty nitrogen-gas tank at the space station. Fossum and Garan got a head start on the job Thursday.

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