The 240-foot solar array, attached and unfolded by Endeavour's international crew of five, is the longest structure to ever fly in space. Endeavour carried aloft the United States-developed solar arrays, associated electronics, batteries, cooling radiator, and support structure. The entire 17-ton package is called the P6 Integrated Truss Segment, and it is the heaviest and largest element yet delivered to the station aboard a Shuttle.
The addition of the huge solar arrays was the first of four identical such sets that will be attached to the station in coming years, clearly distinguishing the International Space Station from any predecessor spacecraft. They provide the station with more electrical power, a key to successful modern research, than any craft that has flown before. The arrays were installed during the first of three spacewalks.
A second spacewalk moved a communications antenna to a location high on the new truss segment. During the last half of the spacewalk, the station was prepared for the next Shuttle visit that will deliver the first laboratory module, Destiny, in January 2001. A third spacewalk was conducted to attach equipment at the top of the truss segment called the Floating Potential Probe, which measures the electrical environment around the space station's exterior.
The Shuttle and station crews greeted one another for the first time on the ninth day of the mission as they fully opened the hatches between the two spacecraft. The crews spent two days working together, transferring supplies and equipment back and forth. Endeavour's visit and the power from the new solar arrays allowed the station crew to begin conducting some of the first experiments aboard the space station. Those experiments included: student experiments conducted in conjunction with the national JASON education project, which studies the effects of space on soybean and corn seeds; an experiment developed by the Air Force and the Massachusetts Institute of Science and Technology studying new control mechanisms for satellites; and several medical evaluations studying the effectiveness of exercise on the station's treadmill and other exercise equipment.
Multiple Detailed Supplementary Objectives (DSOs) were also performed during the STS-97 mission. A DSO is a NASA-sponsored investigation performed by Space Shuttle crewmembers who serve as the test subjects. These studies are designed to require minimal crew time, power and stowage. Biomedical DSOs focus on operational concerns, including space motion sickness, cardiovascular deconditioning, muscle loss, changes in coordination and balance strategies, radiation exposure, pharmacokinetics and changes in the body's biochemistry.