The International Space Station gets a remodel
Mankind's most remoteoutpost underwent a significant remodel this week, as an entire moduleof the International Space Station was relocated in order to make wayfor the next generation of American commercial spacecraft. The movedidn't require a spacewalk, with operators instead making use of the16-m (52-ft) robotic arm to grapple and maneuver the Leonardo,or Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM).
The module in questionisn't necessarily glamorous in purpose, being an orbital storage andlaundry bin, but it has had a storied existence. It actually beganits life as a haulage container, designed for the US Space Shuttleprogram by Italy's ASI Space Agency in exchange for NASA agreeing tosend Italian astronauts to the station. In all, the container flew tothe station seven times aboard various shuttles before being modifiedand becoming a permanent fixture of the station in 2011.
The 6.7 m (22 ft)-longcontainer module was unbolted from the Unity docking node from insidethe ISS by astronauts Terry Virts and Scott Kelly, allowing theoperators of the outpost's robotic arm based in Houston, USA andQuebec, Canada to go about the delicate work of shifting the 10-tonne (11-ton)storage shed to its new home. In all, the move took around three anda half hours, after which Leonardo was successfully bolted in placeat the Tranquility docking node.
The ongoing alterationsto the ISS represent one of the most significant remodels of theoutpost since its completion in 2011, and will be instrumental inreturning manned launch capabilities to the ISS back tothe United States. But for now, let's just hope none of the residentsaboard the station try to open the wrong door.
The video belowcontains an animation of the moving process.