Astronauts wrap up space station work

CAPE CANAVERAL — Space shuttle Discovery's astronauts wrapped up their few remaining chores at the international space station on Monday, flexing the robot arm belonging to the newly installed Japanese science lab and opening its attic.

The two crews planned on saying "sayonara" today, with Discovery heading out first thing Wednesday morning.

The Japanese Kibo lab's robot arm was extended to its full 33 feet, with all six joints tested. At the end of the workout, the arm was folded into a long-term resting position.

Discovery delivered Kibo to the space station a week ago, along with a new space station resident, Gregory Chamitoff. He traded places with Garrett Reisman, who's leaving after a three-month stay. Chamitoff's mission will last twice that long.

Reisman said he's looking forward to "a good slice of pizza" and some bread, banned from the space station because of crumbs.

Mars

Scientists troubleshooting the Phoenix lander said Monday they will try one last shake to get a scoopful of Martian dirt inside a tiny oven in hopes of jump-starting their study of Mars' north pole region.

Phoenix's first science experiment to heat the permafrost soil was delayed after it was discovered that virtually none of it passed through a screen to reach a miniature oven, one of eight aboard the spacecraft that will heat soil and sniff the resulting vapors for signs of life-friendly elements.

Moon

NASA is asking private industry to come up with ideas for a lunar outpost that can house four astronauts for one to four weeks on the moon starting about 2024.

The moon base must be equipped to send out crews for hundreds of miles in pressurized rovers, bring back scientific samples and return them safely to Earth, NASA officials said.

Astronauts wrap up space station work 06/09/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 4:33pm]

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