HOUSTON -- Astronauts added a room to the International Space Station yesterday morning, working outside the station and inside to move the Harmony module, which will serve as a connection point for two new laboratories in the station, to a temporary location on the side of the station.
The space station's robot arm, operated by Stephanie Wilson and Daniel Tani, smoothly moved the 16-ton module out of the shuttle and onto the station, where automatic bolts secured it in a temporary home to the side of the station's living quarters.
The work outside was more strenuous. Astronauts Scott E. Parazynski and Douglas Wheelock began their spacewalk shortly after 6 a.m. EDT. They prepared the Harmony module for its removal from the shuttle's payload bay and performed some of the preliminary work for the other big task of the mission, moving an enormous set of solar arrays and the truss they stand on from their initial position atop the station to the permanent home on the far end of the truss on the station's left side.
Technical difficulties on the mission have been minor. So little insulating foam was shed from the shuttle's external tank that mission managers have determined that a more focused inspection of the shuttle's heat shield is unnecessary.
When that word was passed up to the shuttle Thursday afternoon before the crew's sleep period began, the shuttle commander, Pamela A. Melroy, responded enthusiastically, "Oh, man, that is fantastic news."
She said it was a relief to know that tile and panel damage was not a concern and that the crew would be able to take the time that would have gone to inspection and use it to further prepare the Harmony module for entry.
"We just can't wait to get inside," Melroy said.
The spacewalk went smoothly for the most part. The astronauts struggled occasionally with balky bolts and hose connectors. They were wary of frozen ammonia that drifted away from some the hoses because the small amounts could contaminate the atmosphere inside the station if they were brought in on space suits.
At one point, Paolo Nespoli, the Italian astronaut who was coordinating the spacewalk from inside the station, asked his colleagues to take a break to enjoy the view. He asked them to look over the starboard side as the station passed over Houston. "Hello, Houston!" Parazynski said.
The spacewalking astronauts were back in the airlock before noon.