Spaceflight Now: STS-106 Mission Report

Space station ready for first residents to move in

Posted: September 18, 2000

Images of the astronauts preparing for undocking and the space station during Atlantis' departure today. Photos: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now
Despite pre-flight questions about environmental quality, the Atlantis astronauts said today the international space station's new Zvezda command module is "a beautiful place to live," with acceptable background noise, excellent air quality and comfortable accommodations.

The roomy Russian-built command module is the nerve center of the growing space station, providing crew quarters, computer control and the propulsion necessary to keep the lab complex at a safe altitude.

Before its July 12 launch, a congressional report raised questions about Zvezda's environmental qualities, saying high background noise could be harmful to the health of full-time crews. Other critics raised questions about the quality of the station's air.

But Atlantis commander Terrence Wilcutt left no doubt today that his crew, at least, found Zvezda more than adequate as a home away from home.

"The air quality is wonderful," he said during a morning news conference. "We equated it to about like living in San Diego. It's very, very nice. Nice air, nice air conditioning, low humidity. It's uncluttered right now, it's just a beautiful place to live.

"The noise is about the same as the shuttle," he added. "We all seemed to think that, we each took a turn sleeping over there at night and it's a nice place to sleep. I think the (full time) crews are going to be very, very happy up there."

The astronauts also took turns spending the night in the module's two staterooms. Each stateroom has a door for privacy and even a porthole looking out into space.

"The ambient noise in there with the door shut was lower than in the regular service module," said shuttle pilot Scott Altman. "There was a nice fan blowing from the top. I'm a pretty good size guy, and there was even room for me to just about stretch out in there. It actually was very comfortable, I enjoyed sleeping over there."

The space station's first full-time crew - commander William Shepherd, Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev - is scheduled to blast off aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket on Oct. 30. They will dock with the space station two days later for a planned four-month stay.

Asked what advice he might offer Shepherd, Wilcutt said only that "I think he's going to enjoy it."

"It's a beautiful facility, it's brand new, it seemed like a new house, which is exactly what it was," he said. "It's ready to go, we tidied it up, left him a couple of notes and we think it's ready for him to move into."

Video vault
Space shuttle Atlantis gently undocks from the international space station after a successful supply delivery visit to the orbiting outpost.
  PLAY (406k, 59sec QuickTime file)
Atlantis undocks and makes a fly-around of the international space station before departing during the STS-106 mission as seen in NASA animation.
  PLAY (251k, 51sec QuickTime file)
Take an animated tour of the exterior of the international space station in its current configuration, including the Unity, Zarya and Zvezda modules and Progress cargo freighter.
  PLAY (271k, 42sec QuickTime file)

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