Station astronauts finish third spacewalk in nine days
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: February 8, 2007
Station commander Mike Lopez-Alegria and flight engineer Sunita Williams wrapped up a successful six-hour 40-minute spacewalk today, throwing two no-longer-needed sun shades overboard, deploying an external cargo mounting platform and finishing a wiring modification that will route station power to docked space shuttles.
They also stowed launch locks on a solar array truss segment that was attached in December and photographed a suspect connector that might be responsible for poor communications between the station and docked shuttles. Deployment of a second cargo carrier was deferred to a future spacewalk to make sure the astronauts had enough time to finish the station-to-shuttle wiring modification.
"It's such a nice day outside. Do we have to go in?" Lopez-Alegria joked as he sailed 220 miles above South America at five miles per second. A few minutes later, they re-entered and repressurized the Quest airlock, officially ending the 80th spacewalk devoted to station assembly and maintenance since construction began in 1998.
It was the third spacewalk in nine days for Lopez-Alegria and Williams, a record for space station assembly in the absence of a shuttle. During EVAs Jan. 31 and Feb. 4, the astronauts successfully activated the station's permanent cooling system in a major milestone that helps clear the way for attachment of additional research modules later this year.
"Let me just congratulate you on completing this EVA, as well as all three of them," said Chris Looper in mission control. "They were all three extremely difficult EVAs and you guys made them look not necessarily easy, but the way they should look. You did an excellent job."
Today's excursion began at 8:26 a.m. and ended at 3:06 p.m., pushing Lopez-Alegria's cumulative EVA total to 61 hours and 22 minutes over nine spacewalks during two previous shuttle missions and the current station expedition. Lopez-Alegria now stands second on the list of most experienced spacewalkers behind Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev, who has more than 82 hours of EVA time.
Williams, who joined Lopez-Alegria and cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin aboard the station in December, has now completed four spacewalks totaling 29 hours and 17 minutes. She already held the record for female astronauts and now stands 25th on the list of most experienced spacewalkers.
Lopez-Alegria and Tyurin plan to stage another spacewalk Feb. 22 to free a jammed rendezvous antenna on a Russian Progress supply ship; to swap out a materials science experiment; and to photograph targets on the back of the Zvezda command module to help calibrate the docking software that will be used by a new European Space Agency cargo ship.
After that, the crew will begin gearing up for the arrival of shuttle Atlantis in March on the next station assembly mission.