Spacewalking astronauts worked on the outside of Japan's shiny new science lab Thursday, installing cameras and removing covers.
It was the second spacewalk in three days for Michael Fossum and Ronald Garan Jr., who were dwarfed by the 37-foot-long, 14-foot-wide lab, which is now the biggest room at the international space station.
“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 experiment racks into the billion-dollar lab, called Kibo, Japanese for hope, 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 orbiting 210 miles above Earth. Skylab was NASA's first space station, back in the 1970s.
Today, the astronauts will attach a storage shed to Kibo. And on Saturday, they will test-drive Kibo's 33-foot robot arm.
One last spacewalk is planned for Sunday, to replace an empty nitrogen-gas tank at the station.