November 20, 2008

Astronauts Vow Not To Lose Remaining Tool Bag

Lead spacewalker Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper and colleagues vowed on Thursday not to repeat mistakes that caused a bag of tools to be sent floating into space on Tuesday.

Stefanyshyn-Piper, space shuttle Endeavour's lead spacewalker, was busy cleaning grease from a leaking grease gun when the tool tote floated out of a larger bag.

"Oh, great," she said as the bag drifted out of reach.

"We're definitely not going to do it again. You're not going to see us lose another bag," lead spacewalker Stefanyshyn-Piper said.

Attached to the floating tote were two grease guns used to lubricate a jammed joint that controls the space station's rotating solar wing. NASA reported the lost tools were among the biggest items ever to be lost during a spacewalk. The estimated it cost about $100,000.

Stefanyshyn-Piper vowed to "double- and triple-check everything from here on out,"

"You've got to remember, we are working with humans here and we are prone to human error," said flight director Ginger Kerrick. "So we do the best we can and we learn from our mistakes."

Thursday's spacewalk is similar to Tuesday's. Stefanyshyn-Piper and Robert "Shane" Kimbrough will clean and lubricate the troublesome joint some 220 miles above the earth.

The remaining pair of grease guns will be tethered to a larger bag so they won't leak on other equipment. A dry wipe will be wrapped around the grease guns to catch any leaks. Finally, Stefanyshyn-Piper will use a prelubricated wipe to clean the metal shavings instead of a grease gun, so she and Kimbrough don't have to share as much.

The astronauts also wanted to run the first test on a newly delivered contraption that converts urine and sweat into drinkable water. Astronauts spent a good part of the day Wednesday hooking it up.

The urine converter was delivered by Endeavour, along with other equipment, and will help turn the space station into a home for six crew members next year instead of the current three residents.


Image Caption: Astronaut Steve Bowen, STS-126 mission specialist, participates in the mission's first session of extravehicular activity (EVA) as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station. During the six-hour, 52-minute spacewalk, Bowen and astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper (out of frame), mission specialist, worked to clean and lubricate part of the station's starboard Solar Alpha Rotary Joints (SARJ) and to remove two of SARJ's 12 trundle bearing assemblies. The spacewalkers also removed a depleted nitrogen tank from a stowage platform on the outside of the complex and moved it into Endeavour's cargo bay. They also moved a flex hose rotary coupler from the shuttle to the station stowage platform, as well as removing some insulation blankets from the common berthing mechanism on the Kibo laboratory. (NASA)


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