Thursday, February 11, 2010

Astronauts prepare for a dynamic spacewalk

The two crews aboard earth's orbital outpost will gear up for a busy day of spacewalks and space robotics as they bring a critical new module and a observation dome over from the space shuttle to a space station docking.

Endeavour, which docked to the International Space Station on Wednesday, brought up the Tranquility node and the cupola section in her payload bay. The Tranquility is a bus-size module which will provide living quarters and house the COLBERT treadmill. The cupola is a dome section which has seven windows providing a 360-degree out of this world view.

Both station and shuttle crew members were awoken at 4:14 pm EST this afternoon to kick-off a busy day which will see two astronauts perform a six and one-half hour orbital walk in support of the installation of Tranquility to the station.

Astronauts Nicholas Patrick and Bob Behnken will leave the space station's air lock and head to Endeavour's aft section of the payload bay. The will begin preparing Tranquility for it's removal using a 58-foot long station robotic arm.

The duo are scheduled to switch their pressure suits to internal power and head out of the Quest airlock at 9:09 pm (0209 GMT).

First, Patrick and
Behnken will first remove a cover off an alignment camera on the station's Unity port in support of Tranquility's docking. They next will begin removing the covers off of seven windows which circle the dome-shaped cupola section in Endeavour's bay. At this point, the cupola is attached to the aft section of Tranquility.

The spacewalking duo will then disconnect umbilical cable between Tranquility and the orbiter which have provided power and life support to the node.

They will then turn their focus to the space station as they transition over and move a storage platform over to the P5 & P6 truss segment.

Shuttle crew member Kay Hire will then extend the station's arm out and grapple the Tranquility module, and slowly begin to rise it up and out of the bay. The 13.5 ton module with the cupola attached will be moved over to the Unity module for mating.

Once Tranquility had firmly docked, Patrick and
Behnken will begin connecting avionics and

Once the Tranquility node is attached the space station (above on Tuesday night) the orbital complex will be 98% completed. There will be four more space shuttle flights after this mission which will see a new Russian segment, supplies and hardware to complete this beautiful human-made world in space.

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