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The BBC's Tama Muru
"It will become one of the brightest objects in the night sky"
 real 56k

Saturday, 10 February, 2001, 22:10 GMT
Astronauts complete delicate mission
Spacewalk to connect electrical, computer and cooling lines
Spacewalk to connect electrical, computer and cooling lines
Astronauts have finished adding a multi-million dollar scientific laboratory to the International Space Station.

It marks the completion of a key stage in the project, as the laboratory will be the focus of research in space once a number of small blocks of scientific equipment are attached in future shuttles.

Destiny facts
Weight: 16 tonnes
Length: 8.5 metres
Diameter: 4.3 metres
Cost: $1.4bn
The installation of the $1.4bn Destiny laboratory on the ISS was an operation of the utmost delicacy, carried out 360km (225 miles) above the earth.

The astronaut operating the robot-arm, Marsha Ivins, had just two inches of clearance when she slowly lifted the lab from its tight berth in Atlantis' payload bay.

Ivins worked for two hours to mount the lab. She had no direct line of vision and was assisted by colleagues Tom Jones and Robert Curbeam from outside the shuttle.

Space walks

Jones and Curbeam also connected electrical, computer and cooling lines between the lab and the space station.

Lab and ISS
Attaching the lab was a delicate operation
Their mission was one of several space walks scheduled to finish connecting and outfitting the lab. Two more are planned.

Since Destiny's cost is so high, there is no backup module. If Destiny was damaged or destroyed, space station construction would have been put on hold for years.

"We try not to think about the cost of the lab," said shuttle commander Kenneth Cockrell.

"It's certainly nothing that we could pay back if we ruined it."

Bearing gifts

On Friday, Atlantis docked with the ISS and the two crews greeted each other after hatches between the spacecraft were opened.

After docking, the shuttle crew of five astronauts delivered supplies and gifts to the Alpha crew, including a computer, cables for the laboratory, food, water, clothes and about 20 DVD movies.

The space station is due to be completed in 2006.

In orbit high above the earth, it will become one of the brightest objects in the night sky.

The tasks for the crew include work on how humans cope in zero-gravity.

Partners in the space station project include the United States, Russia and the European Space Agency.

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See also:

10 Dec 00 | Sci/Tech
Endeavour undocks after ISS triumph
04 Dec 00 | Sci/Tech
Night sky gets 'new star'
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