Two spacewalking astronauts hung science experiments on the outside of the space station's new lab Friday and packed up a broken gyroscope for next week's shuttle ride home.
Two spacewalking astronauts hung science experiments on the outside of the space station’s new lab Friday and packed up a broken gyroscope for next week’s shuttle ride home.
It was the third and final spacewalk for Atlantis’ astronauts, who arrived at the international space station nearly a week ago.
Rex Walheim and Stanley Love attached a package of sun-gazing instruments to the European Columbus lab as well as a huge box containing eight experiments to detect micrometeorite strikes and measure space radiation, among other things.
As they hooked up the solar experiments, French astronaut Leopold Eyharts informed them that the linked shuttle-station was just about to pass over Europe after sailing across the Atlantic.
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“Just to let you know that you are finishing the installation of the first European payload on Columbus while we are arriving over Europe in the opposite direction of Christopher Columbus,” Eyharts radioed from inside.
The European Space Agency’s station program manager, Alan Thirkettle, was delighted with everything accomplished on the mission.
“We’re really a real partner now, and we feel it and it’s a very, very nice feeling, indeed,” Thirkettle said. “We’re a very happy set of bunnies.”
The work _ along with the removal of the bad space station gyroscope and the addition of Columbus handrails _ took more than six hours, and more tasks awaited them. By then, the spacewalkers were getting tired and begged off on at least one chore. They also did not have time to inspect a jammed solar rotary joint on the space station.
Before going back inside, the astronauts examined a small chip in a handrail near the space station’s hatch. Love spotted the chip during Monday’s spacewalk, and Mission Control dubbed it Love Crater.
Walheim put on a spare overglove and rubbed the fingers over the chip to see if the material would snag; then he did the same thing using a glove wrapped around a tool. Astronauts have ripped their gloves on previous outings, and NASA wanted to see if this chip might be a culprit.
Walheim said the chip felt rough at first, but seemed to get smoother with all the rubbing and cleaning. The gloves will be put under the microscope when they’re back on Earth to check for any tears.
At the very end of their 7 1/2-hour spacewalk, the spacewalkers wished a happy birthday to astronaut Leland Melvin, who turned 44 Friday and operated the robot arm on which they worked.
Between now and Monday’s departure of Atlantis, the 10 spacefarers hope to complete as much work inside the Columbus lab as possible. NASA added a 13th day to the shuttle flight so the astronauts could do just that.
Atlantis is scheduled to land Wednesday. NASA said Friday that the shuttle will land that day if possible _ either at Cape Canaveral or the backup site in California _ so that the military can shoot down a damaged spy satellite. The Pentagon is waiting until Atlantis and its seven astronauts are safely back on Earth before taking aim.
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