November 18, 2008

ISS home improvements begin

U.S. astronauts performed maintenance chores -- cleaning here, lubing there -- Tuesday at the International Space Station.

Mission specialists Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper and Steve Brown began their 6 1/2-hour space walk shortly after 1 p.m. as space shuttle astronaut Shane Kimbrough guided them through their tasks, reported.

The space shuttle Endeavour began its mission Thursday when it lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

On the mission specialists' to-do list is the replacement of a nitrogen tank assembly, various station assembly tasks and starting the cleaning and lubrication of the starboard solar alpha rotary joint.

Inside the space station, mission specialist Don Pettit and flight engineer Sandra Magnus will operate the station's robotic arm for several tasks. Among other things, the ISS is being expanded to accommodate more visitors.

Four spacewalks are scheduled, NASA said.