Cosmonauts on spacewalk to outfit new docking port
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: January 14, 2010
Space station cosmonauts Maxim Suraev and Oleg Kotov opened the hatch of the Pirs docking compartment at 5:05 a.m. EST Thursday to officially kick off a planned five-hour 50-minute spacewalk. The primary goals of the excursion are to configure cables, antennas and docking targets on a new Russian module to give the station a fourth port for Russian Progress and Soyuz spacecraft.
"What's the weather there, Max?" a translator quoted a Russian flight controller before the hatch was opened.
"The weather is beautiful" Suraev joked. "It's dark so far."
"As long as it doesn't rain it will be fine because we didn't take any umbrellas with us," said someone, presumably Kotov.
"Well, that's what I was counting on, getting (a) sun tan."
For identification, Kotov is wearing a spacesuit with red markings while Suraev is wearing a suit with blue stripes. This is the 137th spacewalk devoted to station assembly and maintenance since construction began in 1998, the third for Kotov and the first for Suraev.
The Russian segment of the International Space Station currently has three active docking ports, one on the Earth-facing side of the Zarya module, one on the Earth-facing end of the Pirs compartment attached to the Zvezda command module and an aft port at the back end of Zvezda.
On Nov. 12, a new docking compartment called Poisk - "explore" in Russian - docked at an upward-facing port on the command module directly across from Pirs. A similar module, scheduled for launch later this year aboard the shuttle Atlantis, will be attached to Zarya's downward-facing port.
To support full-time crews of up to six astronauts and cosmonauts, two three-seat Soyuz capsules must be docked at all times to serve as lifeboats. Additional ports are needed for unmanned Progress supply ships.
Suraev and Kotov plan to configure docking system antennas, cables and docking targets during today's spacewalk to rig Poisk for use by Soyuz and Progress spacecraft. They also plan to retrieve an experiment package.
If all goes well, a Soyuz spacecraft currently docked at Zvezda's aft port will be moved to Poisk on Jan. 21.