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Space station population about to reach record 13

CAPE CANAVERAL — Up at the space station, the tenants are still getting used to having twice as many people around. Now, they're getting seven house guests who will stay for nearly two weeks.

NASA hopes to finish the International Space Station by the end of next year.

It aims to launch space shuttle Endeavour Saturday morning on a space station construction mission that should complete the huge Japanese lab. The countdown began Wednesday, and good weather is forecast.

The space station crew doubled to six late last month, and when the shuttle pulls up with its crew of seven, there will be 13 people on board the station — the most people ever together in space at one time.

Space shouldn't be a problem. With nine rooms, two toilets, two kitchens and two mini-gyms, the nearly completed orbiting complex can accommodate 13, at least temporarily. Plus there's a bathroom, kitchen and exercise equipment on the visiting shuttle.

Five space walks are planned, and the astronauts will add the final segment to the huge Japanese lab, store big spare parts on the outside of the station, change batteries and perform other maintenance work. All three robotic arms, two on the station, will be required.

Of the 13 space travelers, seven are from the United States, two each from Russia and Canada, and one each from Belgium and Japan.

Twelve are men. Five are military officers. Four are physicians. One is the son of a Soviet astronaut. One is a former Navy SEAL honored for his combat in Afghanistan. They range in age from 37 to 55.

Space station population about to reach record 13 06/10/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 10, 2009 9:21pm]

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