Hugh Pickens writes: "Things may get a little tight in space as seven shuttle astronauts blast off from Florida on June 13 to join up with six colleagues already on the International Space Station (ISS) bringing the ISS contingent to thirteen, the largest number of individuals on the platform ever at one time. The 13 spacefarers represent seven from the US, two each from Russia and Canada, and one each from Europe and Japan. "I don't know what it's going to be like," says Endeavour commander Mark Polansky, a veteran of two prior spaceflights. "We know it's going to be challenging with 13 people aboard." During five spacewalks, an external platform will be added to the lab which will enable those experiments to be performed that require materials to be exposed to the harsh environment of space and astronauts also have to fit equipment to the exterior of the platform such as batteries and a spare space-to-ground antenna. "It's like having your family descend on you for the holidays, right? And they're going to stay for a very long time. And they come, and they're bringing all their stuff," said Mike Moses, chairman of NASA's Mission Management Team at the Kennedy Space Center. Senior NASA official Bill Gerstenmaier has offered assurances that the space station has the capacity to play host to 13 astronauts at once, but he acknowledged: "It's a very complex and challenging mission for the team.""
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