Japanese lab Kibo attached to space station

Fri Mar 14, 2008 8:24am EDT
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By Jeff Franks

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Astronauts attached the first piece of Japan's Kibo laboratory to the International Space Station on Friday, finally giving the Asian country a permanent place on the orbital outpost.

Japanese astronaut Takao Doi used a robot arm to remotely lift the gleaming cylinder from space shuttle Endeavour's cargo bay and slip it on to the station, which now has segments representing all 15 of its partner nations.

Kibo's installation came at the end of a seven-hour spacewalk by astronauts Garrett Reisman and Richard Linnehan, who helped ready Kibo for its move and also worked on assembly of a Canadian robotic system known as Dextre.

Japanese space officials at Mission Control in Houston applauded as they watched the moment more than 20 years and $2.4 billion in the making.

Tetsuro Yokoyama, deputy manger of operations for the Kibo project, said it was a "memorable day for Japan's human space flight program."

"It has been very exciting for us at JAXA to watch today's activities," he told reporters, referring to Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

He called the performance of Doi, who worked from inside the shuttle, "spectacular."

The cylinder is basically a storage compartment for the main segment of the three-piece Kibo, which is scheduled for delivery on a May space shuttle flight. The final piece will be flown up in early 2009.   Continued...

<p>The Japanese Kibo module is moved by the International Space Station's arm in this view from NASA TV March 14, 2008. REUTERS/NASA TV</p>