Spacewalk outside the space station a success
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: March 10, 2009
Space station commander Mike Fincke and flight engineer Yury Lonchakov completed a relatively straight-forward spacewalk today, installing a European experiment on the hull of the lab complex, performing minor maintenance and carrying out a detailed photo survey of the Zvezda command module.
The EVA began at 12:22 p.m. EDT and ended at 5:11 p.m. when the spacewalkers closed the outer hatch of the Pirs airlock module, wrapping up a four-hour 49-minutes spacewalk nearly an hour ahead of schedule.
"I want to thank you very much for the work you completed," Russian mission control radioed just before the hatch was closed. "Everything went well, everybody is happy, we're all pleased with the success of the EVA."
"Thank you for the opportunity to do another EVA and complete all the outstanding tasks," one of the astronauts replied.
This was the 120th spacewalk devoted to station assembly and maintenance since construction began in 1998, the sixth for Fincke and the second for Lonchakov. Total space station EVA assembly time now stands at 755 hours and 56 minutes.
The spacewalkers had no problems and ran ahead of schedule almost from the start, cutting off a half-dozen loose straps near the Pirs docking port that represented a potential interference hazard; installing the European EXPOSE-R experiment package; repositioning another experiment that was bumped out of place earlier; and conducting a photo survey to document the current condition of the Zvezda command module after nearly nine years in space.
"You know what? I am hungry. This is dinner time, isn't it?" one of the spacewalks said in Russian at one point.
"Pretty much so."
"OK. But at least we have something to think about."
"Yes, you're right. I mean, job is job but still, nobody's supposed to go hungry," a translator relayed.
"Oh, you know, we're both soldiers, we're military people so we'll have to wait."
A few moments later, as the space station sailed high above north Africa and the Mediterranean Sea during a night pass, the spacewalkers took a break to enjoy the view from 220 miles up.
"We can see the cities and then we see lots of clouds," one said. "I believe we can add the shoreline..."
"You just flew over Egypt and now you're flying over the (Mediterranean)," a Russian flight controller radioed.
"You're talking about the Red Sea? ... Yes, we can see it."
"It's so incredibly beautiful. You know, there are no words in any language to describe what we see right now. ... It's one thing to look through the window (but) when you're in the suit outside, especially during the eclipse with the lights off, it's just absolutely unbelievable."
"You see, our hard work has some positive moments to it."
Fincke also took a moment to thank crewmate Sandy Magnus, who helped the spacewalkers get ready and who monitored their progress from inside the space station.
"We want to thank Sandy our third crew member, thank you so much for all your help," Fincke called.
"I'm very happy you can enjoy that view, that you had a break from your work for a moment," Magnus replied.
All three station crew members are in the final stages of their stays in orbit. Magnus, launched to the outpost last November aboard the shuttle Endeavour, is scheduled to return to Earth aboard the shuttle Discovery later this month to wrap up a four-month tour of duty.
Discovery, scheduled for launch from the Kennedy Space Center Wednesday, will carry Magnus' replacement - Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata - to the station.
Fincke and Lonchakov were launched last October aboard a Soyuz spacecraft. Their replacements - commander Gennady Padalka and flight engineer Michael Barratt - are scheduled for launch March 26 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, accompanied by space tourist Charles Simonyi.
Fincke, Lonchakov and Simonyi, making his second $30 million trip to the station, are scheduled to return to Earth April 7 aboard the Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft that carried the station crew aloft last year.