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Christmas gifts arrive at space station

Japanese cargo ship delivers supplies, more to orbiting lab

2010: The international space station sets the record (3,641 days) for the longest continuous human occupation of space. It had been continuously inhabited since Nov. 2, 2000.
2010: The international space station sets the record (3,641 days) for the longest continuous human occupation of space. It had been continuously inhabited since Nov. 2, 2000. (NASA via Wikimedia Commons)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Christmas gifts have arrived at the International Space Station, courtesy of Japan.

A Japanese cargo ship pulled up at the orbiting lab Tuesday, four days after launching. The capsule -- called Kounotori, or white stork -- contains nearly 5 tons of food, water, batteries and other supplies. NASA says there also are Christmas presents for the two Americans, three Russians and one Frenchman on board.

Barely two weeks ago, a Russian supply ship was destroyed shortly after liftoff. At the same time, one of NASA's main suppliers, SpaceX, is grounded. So the Japanese delivery is especially welcome.

The astronauts need the six new lithium-ion batteries for next month's spacewalks. They will replace the old nickel-hydrogen batteries that store energy generated by the station's big solar panels.