Astronauts Spacewalk Near Int'l Space StationA pair of spacewalking astronauts, one of them a surgeon, made good progress on antenna and cable work outside the International Space Station on Thursday, and even had time to carry out an extra task.
A pair of spacewalking astronauts, one of them a surgeon, made good progress on antenna and cable work outside the International Space Station on Thursday, and even had time to carry out an extra task.
Atlantis crewmen Michael Foreman and Doctor Robert Satcher Junior had a spare antenna installed in just two hours after venturing out on the first spacewalk of their mission.
They also hooked up cables and a handrail, and greased some mechanisms, and at one point they were two hours ahead of schedule in completing their list of tasks.
The hardest job was one they weren't even supposed to tackle on Thursday, when they released a cargo platform, after struggling with a jammed spring-loaded device.
They had to hammer and wiggle a bolt and brace to free the mechanism, and lost a small metal piece in the process. The one-eighth-inch sliver, possibly a pin, floated away into Space.
Foreman and Satcher received congratulations from their colleagues at the end of the six and a half hour spacewalk. Shuttle commander Charles Hobaugh promised them something to eat and a chance to relax.
Two more spacewalks are planned, on Saturday and on Monday, to perform more space station maintenance and get the orbiting outpost ready for the next shuttle visitors. Atlantis will remain at the space station until Wednesday.
Already, the 12 space travellers have unloaded several tons of pumps, tanks and other big spare parts that came up on Atlantis. They took care of that just hours after the shuttle docked at the station on Wednesday.
All the gear should keep the space station operating well past next fall's shuttle retirement. The shuttle is the only craft large enough to haul these oversize pieces for the space station.
That's why NASA is so keen on flying the parts now, long before they're needed. NASA plans to keep the outpost running until at least 2015.
Five more shuttle missions remain, all devoted to space station work. There was good news on the shuttle front: NASA declared Atlantis free of any worrisome launch damage after analyzing all the collected data. That frees up the astronauts on Friday, giving them more time to move supplies over to the space station.