July 15, 2008

Space Station Astronauts Make Second Spacewalk

Two Russian astronauts aboard the International Space Station took their second spacewalk in less than a week on Tuesday.

Commander Sergei Volkov and flight engineer Oleg Kononenko began a spacewalk to install one experiment and retrieve another.

They installed a docking target to be used when a new Russian mini research module arrives next year. The two also rearranged some foot restraints, and installed a new science experiment to the outside of the space station and brought inside an experiment that looked at cosmic effects on bacteria and fungi.

Last Thursday, the duo was forced to go out to remove an explosive bolt from the capsule parked at the space station, one of 10 bolts that help separate the Soyuz spacecraft's return module from its propulsion module.

The explosives in the bolt had as much force as a big M-80 firecracker and could have blown off their hands. The bolt was placed in a blast-proof cylinder and taken back into the space station where it will be returned to Earth for examination.

The last two returning Soyuz capsules experienced some rough, off-course landings and Russian space officials are hoping the recent repairs will remedy another ballistic entry. Engineers still do not know what went wrong, but suspect some of the explosive bolts may not have fired properly.

Those steeper-than-normal entries, while safe, resulted in high-G rides for Soyuz occupants and landings several hundred miles short of the planned area.

American astronaut and flight engineer Gregory Chamitoff retreated into the Soyuz for the entire spacewalk. Space station officials wanted him in the capsule as part of contingency preparations for the unlikely event the Pirs airlock cannot be repressurized.

Volkov and Kononenko have been living at the space station since April. Chamitoff arrived last month on space shuttle Discovery.


Image Caption: Commander Sergei Volkov (upper right) and Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko (center) conduct a spacewalk. Credit: NASA TV


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