NASA STS-124 Mission Takes Off

On 5:02 p.m. EDT NASA launched the Discovery Space Shuttle on its latest mission, STS-124. The shuttle will deliver Japan’s Kibo pressurized module to the International Space Station (ISS). Furthermore, during some last minute preparations, very important equipment has been added to the Discovery’s inventory: parts to repair a balky toilet on board the space station. Recently, the pump that separates the solids from the gas wastes for the toilet has been malfunctioning and replacement parts were needed.

The STS-124 mission is the second of three flights, all designed to launch components to complete the Kibo laboratory. One of this mission’s specific goals is to deliver the pressurized module and robotic arm of the Japanese experiment module named “Kibo”, Japanese for ‘hope’. The STS-124 mission will include two spacewalks designated to install the new lab and its remote manipulator system; the lab’s logistics module, currently installed in a temporary location, will be attached to the new lab as well.

Kibo is the largest pressurized module ever delivered to the ISS, but at 32,000 pounds (14,515 kilograms), it is not the heaviest payload ever launched on board a shuttle. The heaviest payload that was ever launched onboard a space shuttle was the S3/S4 truss, which weighed 35,678 pounds (16,183-kilograms), and was delivered last year to the ISS. Although Kibo’s assembly is important as ever, the toilet’s functionality does not have a lower priority. “Clearly, having a working toilet is a priority for us,” said NASA’s Scott Higginbotham, Mission Manager in the International Space Station and Spacecraft Processing Directorate.

STS-124 is the 123rd flight of the space shuttle, the 26th flight to the international space station, and the 35th flight for space shuttle Discovery. The mission is led by Navy Commander Mark E. Kelly; the pilot is Navy Commander Kenneth T. Ham, and other mission specialists include NASA astronauts Karen L. Nyberg, Air Force Colonel Ronald J. Garan Jr. and Air Force Reserve Col. Michael E. Fossum. Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) sent astronaut Akihiko Hoshide as another mission specialist.

Since the summer of 2006, TFOT has covered all of NASA’s shuttle mission launchings. These included STS-121 on July 4th, 2006, STS-115 on September 9th, 2006, STS-116 on December 9th, 2006, STS-117 on June 8th, 2007, STS-118 on August 8th, 2007, STS-120 on October 23rd, 2007, STS-122 launched on February 7th, 2008 and STS-123 on March 11th, 2008. TFOT has also recently covered the Phoenix’s landing on Mars.

For more information on the STS-124’s launch, see NASA’s website .

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