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September 12, 2000

Newest section of space station opened
Copyright  2000 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The
information contained in this news report may not be published, broadcast
or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of the
Associated Press.
By C. Bryson Hull
Associated Press Writer
SPACE CENTER, Houston (AP) - Atlantis' crew drifted into the newest
section of the international space station early Tuesday and began
hauling equipment into the module, which will be home for the station's
first permanent residents. 

The Russian service module called Zvezda, which finally made it to space
in July after more than two years of delays, made its orbital debut at
1:50 a.m. EDT when Atlantis commander Terrence Wilcutt and cosmonaut Yuri
Malenchenko cracked the hatch open and floated in. 

"We see a good view of the inside of the service module and a lot of
people are smiling down here," Mission Control radioed up. 

"Same here. It's absolutely beautiful," Wilcutt called back from inside
the 43-foot segment. 

But just like walking into a new house, the excitement quickly gave way
to the business of moving. First up, the crew of five astronauts and two
cosmonauts had to begin offloading 1,300 pounds of gear from an unmanned
Russian Progress supply ship previously docked to one end of Zvezda. 

The station's first permanent residents are due to arrive in November:
one American and two Russians who are to spend four months aboard the

There's one big difference between moving so much equipment on Earth and
moving it while orbiting 233 miles up: no gravity. 

And that's good news for the crew, since an additional 4,800 pounds of
supplies will also have to be brought into Zvezda from Atlantis. The
service module was launched without most of its eventual contents because
it was so heavy to begin with. 

The cache includes an oxygen generator, carbon-dioxide removal system,
color TV monitor, ***ham radio, exercise machine, batteries, wrenches,
sockets, flashlights and the all-too-crucial toilet. The crew was to
begin installing the batteries on Tuesday night. 

After opening the first hatch late Monday, it took a few hours for the
seven men to make their way through the 140-foot complex. The pressure
had to be equalized from one compartment to another before the doors
could be opened. 

Space station managers were excited by the fast, smooth entry, which
required communication among several flight control centers in Houston
and Russia. It bodes well for future operations aboard the international
endeavor, space station flight director Mark Ferring said. 

"We were like one big control center around the world," Ferring said. 

It was balmy inside the station -- roughly 80 degrees, but with low
humidity. Wilcutt and his crew seemed comfortable as they set up air
ducts, took air samples and consulted their checklists. The astronauts
had no complaints about the noise inside the station, which has been a
problem with the Russian control module Zarya. 

They wore white breathing masks and black goggles as a safety precaution.
NASA feared that some potentially irritating particles had risen into the
air inside Zvezda after it left Earth's gravity, which was a problem when
Zarya was first opened in orbit in 1998. The concern was unfounded, and
the crew slipped their protective gear off shortly after stepping inside.

The crew members will have to work fast at the unloading and stowing, as
they have just five days inside the complex. It would have been only four
days, but NASA managers decided Tuesday to stretch the mission from 11
days to 12. The new landing date is Sept. 20. 

The astronauts continued their speedy performance, going through their
Tuesday morning tasks about an hour ahead of schedule. 

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