June 6, 2008

Spacewalkers Do Repairs on Japan’s New Space Lab

On Thursday, two spacewalking astronauts serviced the exterior of Japan's brand new orbital lab while crewmates aboard the International Space Station filled its inside with hardware.

On the second spacewalk of a busy two-week mission to the station by U.S. shuttle Discovery, astronauts Michael Fossum and Ronald Garan prepared the research laboratory's robotic arm for deployment, installing cameras needed to judge clearances.

Initial tests showed the cameras were not working, according to NASA.

The spacewalk"”which are routine on such missions but are considered highly dangerous"”lasted seven hours and 11 minutes.

During the spacewalk, a television camera that had a failing power supply was removed from the station's truss. A third and final spacewalk, scheduled for Sunday, will replace the power supply and reinstall the camera.

The astronauts also prepared Kibo's docking port to hold its storage room for tools and spare parts, which was temporarily berthed to the station until Kibo's arrival.

Thermal covers were removed and locks were loosened that anchored equipment during Saturday's rocket ride into space. On Friday, the storage room or logistics module will be installed on top of Kibo using the station's Canadian-made robotic arm.

"Everything looks good for the logistic module's relocation," said NASA commentator Brandi Dean.

The shuttle carrying Kibo, a new station crewmember and supplies including a new pump for the station's broken toilet arrived on Monday.

Kibo is the largest of the outpost's three laboratories. It is a cylinder about the size of a tour bus, measuring in at 37 feet long and weighing more than 16 tons.

It is the centerpiece of Japan's human space flight program and the countries primary contribution to the $100 billion space station.

Astronauts inside moved refrigerator-sized but weightless racks into the complex, floating freely around its spacious interior.

The lab's robotic arm is scheduled for activation on Friday and it will be deployed and tested for the first time on Saturday.

The NASA station is nearing completion with seven construction missions and two resupply flights remaining before the shuttle fleet is retired in 2010.

In October, the U.S. space agency plans a final mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. Afterwards, it will turn its attention to developing a fleet of new spaceships that in addition to reaching the space station can travel to the moon.


Image Caption: Astronaut Ron Garan participated in the first of STS-124's three planned spacewalks as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station. During the six-hour, 48-minute spacewalk, Garan and fellow astronaut Mike Fossum loosened restraints holding the Orbiter Boom Sensor System in its temporary stowage location on the space station's starboard truss, prepared the Kibo Japanese Pressurized Module for its installation to the space station, demonstrated cleaning techniques for the Solar Alpha Rotary Joint's (SARJ) race ring and installed a replacement SARJ Trundle Bearing Assembly. Kibo was officially opened during a ceremony performed by astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and the Expedition 17 and STS-124 crews the next day. Image Credit: NASA


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