Atlantis shuttle astronauts and the crew of the International Space Station opened the station's newest room Thursday, a Russian research module that doubles as a spaceship docking port.
The $200 million new room, called the Mini Research Module-1, or Rassvet ("Dawn" in Russian), was delivered by Atlantis and attached to the station's Zarya module on Tuesday. Once it's up and running, the 19.7-foot (6-meter) long Rassvet will be used for storage and scientific research by the station crew. It will also provide another docking port for visiting Russian spacecraft to link up to. [Graphic: Russia's Rassvet space module.]
The crew checked for leaks in the seal between Rassvet and Zarya, and once astronauts determined the modules were linked up correctly, they opened the new lab for the first time on Thursday at 6:52 a.m. EDT (1052 GMT).
"Everything looks normal, everything is great," station commander Oleg Kotov radioed down to Mission Control.
After opening the door, spaceflyers installed an air filter to clean out the air inside. The complete unpacking and set-up of the new lab will take place after Atlantis leaves the station.
The Atlantis astronauts – who are about half-way through the 12-day STS-132 mission – woke up Thursday morning at 1:59 a.m. EDT (0559 GMT) to the song "Welcome to the Working Week" by Elvis Costello, played especially for mission specialist Stephen Bowen.
"I want to thank my family for picking such a great song," Bowen said.
After their work on Rassvet, the spaceflyers will transfer cargo, such as food, supplies and spare parts, from Atlantis onto the space station. In the afternoon, the crew plans to take some well-deserved time off.
"Both crews have a fairly light day," lead space station flight director Emily Nelson said, referring to the space station and space shuttle crews.
Mission specialists Garrett Reisman and Michael Good will prepare for their spacewalk, set to take place on Friday – the third and final planned for the STS-132 mission. At 4:15 p.m. EDT (2015 GMT) on Thursday, the two astronauts will move into the station's Quest airlock and camp out there for the night.
By lowering the pressure inside the airlock and sleeping there the night before a spacewalk, the astronauts purge nitrogen from their bloodstream, which helps reduce the risk of decompression sickness (also known as "the bends").
- Gallery – Photos From the Last Launch of Atlantis
- POLL: Should NASA Retire the Space Shuttles?
- 7 Cool Things You Didn't Know About Space Shuttle Atlantis
SPACE.com is providing complete coverage of Atlantis' STS-132 mission to the International Space Station with Senior Writer Clara Moskowitz and Managing Editor Tariq Malik based in New York. Click here for shuttle mission updates and a link to NASA TV.