NASA astronauts are making good progress this weekend at the International Space Station. Work includes installation of the first portion of Kobi, Japan’s science laboratory, and assembly of Canada’s Mr. Dextre, a large robotic appendage designed to perform tasks on the outside of the ISS so that humans don’t have to suit up and do them.
Everything has run smoothly and the initial module of Kobi was opened for the first time Friday. The hatch was opened at 7:24 MDT March 15, marking the first time the space station’s 15-nation program has full on-orbit participation. Kobi is in a temporary berth at the station, and will likely be moved prior to the arrival of the next portion.
Not everything ran smoothly with Mr. Dextre’s installation. A power problem prevented its initial deployment. The problem was eventually traced to a flawed cable in the pallet containing the robot during shuttle delivery. Once power from the station was introduced, the robot responded to controls. The cable ended up not being the correct type for the powering system.
Last night’s work focused on attaching Dextre’s two arms. Work with the arms was temporarily slowed due to stubborn bolts, but things were wrapped up by 12:57 MDT this morning. Initial tests of Dextre and it’s two arms indicate a nominally operative piece of equipment, which is excellent news.
I wrote a post a few days ago regarding Cassini’s planned fly-through and testing of Encaladus’ eruptive geyser. Unfortunately, a software glitch prevented instrument from determining the make-up of the geyser material during the fly-through. The good news is that cameras were operating at the critical time. They discovered that the north pole of Enceladus appears much older than the moon’s south pole.
All is not lost with regard to determining the make-up of the ejecta. NASA officials said that Cassini’s Wednesday flyby is the first of four close-up swings past the moon this year. A similar plume pass is slated for October 9th.
And that’s just Enceladus. Cassini continues to probe the remainder of the Saturnian system.