Station spacewalk begins
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: June 5, 2009
Running more than an hour late because of spacesuit troubleshooting, cosmonaut Gennady Padalka and NASA flight engineer Michael Barratt opened the hatch of the Pirs airlock module aboard the International Space Station at 3:52 a.m. EDT to officially begin a planned five-and-a-half-hour spacewalk.
The goal of the excursion is to mount rendezvous antennas on the upper side of the Russian Zvezda command module. A new docking module is scheduled for launch in November that will use the rendezvous system to home in on the station and dock at Zvezda's upper port. The docking module will be used later as a port for Soyuz crew ferry craft and Progress supply ships.
Today's spacewalk began a little more than an hour behind schedule because of readings indicating high carbon dioxide levels in the crew's new Orlan MK spacesuits, being used for the first time. Equipped with new computers and displays, both suits indicated higher-than-expected CO2 levels, but the spacewalkers said they felt fine.
"Michael, how are you feeling? What do you think about the first time working in the suit?" a Russian flight controller called from Moscow.
"So far so good," Barratt replied in Russian. "Sizing is good, so it just feels fine."
"So do you feel like maybe you can be nauseous, maybe there's not enough air to breathe inside the suit?"
"No, I wouldn't say that," Barratt said.
"So no discomfort whatsoever?"
"Not at all. So far so good," said Barratt, a former NASA flight surgeon. "I'm very familiar with the symptoms of high CO2 levels, but I'm not experiencing any."
"Michael, I'm very sorry because we're receiving information from several different sources," the ground surgeon replied. "So if you don't mind, I would like to ask you once in a while about what you're feeling. As a surgeon, I would like you to report to me your symptoms, or how you're feeling, and so on from time to time. ... Are you OK with that?"
"Yes of course," Barratt said. "That goes without saying."
After assessing the readings on the ground, along with frequent calls to the spacewalkers to make sure both felt normal, Russian flight controllers cleared the crew to depressurize the Pirs airlock module and begin today's spacewalk.
For identification, Padalka, call sign EV-1, is wearing a suit with red stripes. Barratt, EV-2, is wearing a suit with blue stripes that is equipped with a NASA helmet camera.
This is the 124th spacewalk devoted to station assembly and maintenance since construction began in 1998, the fifth so far this year, the seventh overall for Padalka and the first for Barratt. Going into Friday's excursion, more than 80 astronauts and cosmonauts representing the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, Germany, France and Sweden had logged 775 hours of space station EVA time.
The KURS antennas being installed by Padalka and Barratt are passive elements in a system that will enable the Russian MRM-2 docking module to home in on the station in November.
The station currently has three Russian docking ports: an Earth-facing port on the forward end of the Zarya module and two on Zvezda, one facing Earth and the other at the rear of the lab complex.
At present, two three-seat Soyuz lifeboats are docked at the station, one at Zarya and the other at Zvezda's aft port. An unmanned Progress supply ship is attached to the Pirs module on Zvezda's Earth-facing port. The MRM-2 docking module scheduled for launch in November will go on the zenith port directly above and across from Pirs.
Yet another docking module, known as MRM-1, is scheduled for launch next year aboard a space shuttle. It will be attached to Zarya's downward facing port, providing the clearance needed for planned U.S. Orion crew capsules to dock at a downward-facing port in the station's U.S. Unity module.