Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Endeavour astronauts perform third spacewalk of mission

Astronauts perform the third spacewalk aboard space station. (NASA)

Shuttle Endeavour astronauts worked outside the International Space Station today stringing fiber optic cables and back-up power cables to an aging Russian segment.

Astronauts Drew Feustel and Mike Fincke began the third of four planned spacewalks during Endeavour's final flight at 1:46 a.m. EDT today, and minutes later began floating out of the station's Quest airlock.

The orbital duo grabbed their tools and moved over to the very first element launched to begin building the orbiting lab in 1998, Zarya.

Once they set up their tools and removed three cap covers on the module, they moved back to the Quest airlock to retrieve the main goal of the spacewalk, the installation of the Power Data and Grapple Fixture.

The PDG Fixture is designed to be attached to the exterior of the Russian module at three connections. They then installed a video signal converter near the PDGF and three cables between the two newly installed equipment.

Two long fiber optic cables and two power jumper cables based from the American Harmony and Unity nodes and running over to the PDG fixture were then hooked up.

Today's spacewalk concluded at 8:37 a.m., as the astronauts concluded six hours and 54 minutes on spacesuit internal power.

Today's spacewalk was the 247th by NASA astronauts dating back to 1965, and only the 117th spacewalk based from the space station.

Endeavour's astronauts have now spent 21 hours and 20 minutes outside of the space station, with nearly seven hours planned for Friday's orbital walk in space.

American, Russian, Canadian and European astronauts combined have spent 995 hours and 13 minutes "spacewalking" in support of construction and maintenance of the space station, NASA's mission control explained.

"It was an amazing sunrise and the view was amazing," Fincke exclaimed as he radioed Feustel near the end of the spacewalk.

One more journey outside the orbiting complex is planned to begin on Friday at 12:46 a.m., by astronauts Fincke and Greg Chamitoff.

The astronauts will mark the start of the 1,000th hour of spacewalking work outside the space station at 5:33 a.m. based on an on time start to the 'walk.

Friday's final spacewalk of Endeavour's mission will also be the last by space shuttle astronauts in the program's thirty year history.

The first space shuttle spacewalk occurred on the first flight of Challenger in April 1983.

The next and final space shuttle flight will be flown by Atlantis on STS-135, and her crew of four will not perform a spacewalk.

One walk in space is planned during Atlantis' visit, however it will be performed by space station astronauts.

Also on Friday morning, Fincke will become the American astronaut with the most time spent in space as he surpasses
the current Chief of the Astronaut Corps Peggy Whitson's 377 days.

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