NASA expands the International Space Station with science lab — will soon add a porch

Astronauts ferried to the International Space Station by the Discovery space shuttle are hard at work this week to get its latest addition online: the $1 billion Kibo science lab module. The Kibo module, named for the Japanese word meaning "hope," will be the station's largest room at 37 feet in length — about the size of a bus's interior. Supplies for Kibo were already delivered to the station in March, and something resembling a porch will be shipped up to it next year, where astronauts will be able to conduct "outdoor" experiments.

Another important item went up with the Kibo: an inspection boom to check the Discovery spacecraft for any signs of damage during liftoff. The shuttle tore off 1,500 square feet of the flame trench during liftoff — the most damage to the launchpad in 27 years — and a few pieces of foam insulation for the Discovery's external fuel tank were also spotted falling away. The boom, equipped with a scanning laser, will allow the astronauts and mission crew here on Earth to determine whether or not the Discovery is in good enough shape to reenter the atmosphere.

Via Discovery News