Spaceflight Now STS-108

Spacewalkers add thermal blankets to space station
Posted: December 10, 2001

Astronauts Daniel Tani and Linda Godwin successfully wrapped insulation blankets around two critical solar array drive motors Monday to accomplish the primary objective of a four-hour 11-minute spacewalk. But they were unable to tighten up a solar array support truss that failed to lock fully in place when the arrays were deployed last year.

Using vice grips, Godwin made a few attempts to rotate a latch into position so a locking pin could engage. She then invited Tani to give it a try and he, too, failed to budge the shaft.

"I've got a good grip on the vice grips, meaning its extra tight over center, and I tug on it, probably 10 pounds (worth)," Tani radioed. "And it's not moving."

"Endeavour, Houston, we would like you to remove the tool and press on with the timeline," astronaut Charles Camarda radioed from mission control.

Three of the array's four support trusses are fully locked in place and engineers say the panel is in no danger of moving or being damaged in its current configuration.

The primary objective of the spacewalk was to install the insulation blankets around canisters housing motors used to rotate the P6 solar arrays to track the sun. That work went smoothly and while not all of the velcro fittings on one blanket lined up properly, engineers said both blankets were firmly in place.

"Linda and Dan, you guys did a great job up there with those blankets," commander Dominic Gorie radioed from Endeavour's flight deck. "And good job on that four bar (truss). I think it just had more stress on it (than expected) and that's why it was hanging up in the first place."

Because they spent longer than expected trying to tighten up the solar array latch, Godwin and Tani were told to forego a few minor tasks. That work will be done on a future spacewalk by a different crew. Again, this was a minor issue.

Monday's spacewalk began at 12:53 p.m. and ended at 5:04 p.m. with the start of airlock repressurization for a duration of four hours and 11 minutes.

This was the 31st spacewalk devoted to space station assembly and maintenance, the 18th this year and the 25th staged from a visiting space shuttle. Six station spacewalks have been conducted from the station's own airlocks. Twenty-five Americans, one Canadian and four Russians have now logged 190 hours and 15 minutes building and maintaining the international space station.

Godwin and Tani were strictly business as they carried out their spacewalk today, but they took a few moments here and there to enjoy the view from 240 miles up.

"I'd recommend you pause and rest your hands for a second and check the station zenith," Gorie called at one point, telling the spacewalkers to look ahead along the station's ground track.

"Pretty," Godwin said as the shuttle approached Cuba and the Bahamas. "Hard to believe. It almost doesn't seem real that we're up here."

"I know. I agree," Tani said. A few moments later, he radioed: "Dom, what kind of land are we over right now?"

"We're approaching Cuba and the Caribbean, which I think is probably the prettiest area on Earth," Gorie replied.

"Probably have a lot of good boating and fishing there," Godwin deadpanned.

"There's probably a few fish," Tani agreed.

Toward the end of the outing, the shuttle passed directly over Houston, giving the spacewalker's a bird's eye view of home.

"Wow," Tani marveled. "I see it, I see downtown Houston. Wow! I see Intercontinental, I see Ellington (air field), Clear Lake..."

"Beautiful!" Godwin interrupted. "I was just thinking, 'hi Steve, hi mom,'" referring to her husband, former astronaut Steve Nagel.

Meanwhile, shuttle flight director Wayne Hale says he's optimistic Endeavour's mission will be extended one day to accomplish a bit of repair work inside the international space station and to decompress the crew's tight schedule. NASA's mission management team plans to meet Tuesday morning to discuss a mission extension but as of this writing, it appears the shuttle has enough liquid oxygen and hydrogen for its electricity producing fuel cells to permit the bonus day in space.

The extra day of activity would be inserted Wednesday with tasks originally planned for Wednesday and thereafter pushed a day back. Landing would be targeted for Monday, Dec. 17. Among the tasks the crew would use the additional day for is replacement of the station's main treadmill and, possibly, the compressor in an air conditioner in the Russian command module, Zvezda.

Otherwise, station flight director Sally Davis said the astronauts have now transferred some 3,500 pounds of supplies and equipment from the Raffaello cargo module into the station, along with about 1,000 pounds of equipment carried into orbit inside the shuttle's crew cabin.

On Tuesday morning, at 8:46 a.m. EST, the astronauts and flight controllers will participate in a nationwide remembrance of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. All federal agencies are marking the three-month anniversary of the attacks on New York and Washington.