Sunday, February 14, 2010

Astronauts connect support cables on Spacewalk

Two of space shuttle Endeavour's astronauts performed an orbital walk in space to connect support cables and hoses between the International Space Station and the newly installed Tranquility node.

Astronauts Robert Behnken and Nick Patrick began the second space walk of Endeavour's flight at 9:20 pm EST on Saturday night, and then departed the U.S. Quest airlock to begin over six hours of work.

The orbital duo went to work to begin routing avionics and supply cables from the Destiny laboratory to Tranquility node. Meanwhile, inside the new node, crews of the station and shuttle worked to begin powering up and testing electrical systems.

As Patrick performed work to open a cap on a quick disconnect valve, a small amount of ammonia was released in the direction of Patrick. At midnight EST, Behnken went over to inspect his partner's white spacesuit for any signs of ammonia (below). He was considered clean and the pair went back to work.

The Johnson Space Center informed this reporter tonight, "The astronauts will spend additional time in the airlock to allow for any possible flakes to be cleansed from their suits through the airlock environmental system".

Patrick and Behnken then began to wrap the hoses in protective insulation which will shield them from micrometeorites as the station complex speeds around earth at 17,250 mph.

At 12:55 am this morning,
Behnken began opening the four valves to allow the ammonia to begin flowing from Destiny to the node.

They then transitioned over to the nadir, or earth-facing port, on Tranquility to prepare it for Sunday evening's placement of the newly arrived cupola dome from the end of Tranquility to this new location. They opened up four petals on the cover of the common berthing mechanism is support of the cupola's arrival.

Inside the station, the crews installed the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device -- a computer controlled software system which helps guide the astronaut through a specific exercise regiment during his six-month stay on the space station.

The ARED is Windows-based and the astronaut uses a touchscreen computer tablet to input what desired exercise he or she would like to perform. The data of the exercise and how well the astronaut does is then transmitted down to the medical staff at the Johnson Space Center south of Houston.

This new software could become useful here on earth such as in submarines and naval ships on long tours.

Also, NASA's Mission Management Team elected to keep Endeavour in space one extra day to ensure all the tasks are performed. Endeavour's six-person crew will assist the station's five member crew in relocating several key components inside station such as the Waste Hygiene Compartment and Oxygen Generation System into the Tranquility node.

Landing is now targeted for a night landing at the Kennedy Space Center next Sunday evening, February 21st.

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