March 23, 2009

Astronauts Prepare For Third And Final Spacewalk

Space shuttle Discovery crewmembers prepared for their third and final spacewalk on Monday to try to free a jammed restraint pin that was inserted incorrectly during a venture outside the International Space Station on Saturday.

On Saturday, Steve Swenson and Joseph Acaba inserted the pin upside-down, causing the equipment storage platform to become jammed.

Today, Acaba and Richard Arnold II, armed with pry bars and hammers, will leave the space station for the third and final time in hopes of loosening the pin.

"The engineers are trying to troubleshoot it," hoping to figure out a way to free the pin, NASA spokesman Bill Jeffs said on Sunday.

Additionally, during the 6.5 hour spacewalk, Arnold and Acaba will "relocate a cart that moves along the rails of the station's truss, attempt again to deploy the unpressurized cargo carrier attachment system, install a similar attachment system on the starboard side, lubricate the space station arm's end effector and reconfigure some cables that power the station's gyroscopes," NASA said.

Crewmembers aboard the orbiting outpost woke up to "Ain't Nobody Here but Us Chickens" by Louis Jordan, by request from Swenson's children.

On Sunday, Station Commander Mike Fincke worked on the station's Urine Processing Assembly.

"Initially the system showed a lower than expected flow rate when attempts were made to fill the reservoir tank," NASA said, "but after a tank swap, the tank was filled."

Also on Sunday, Discovery found itself having to stay clear of the path of space junk yet again. Discovery crewmembers moved the shuttle and space station to increase drag to avoid the piece of debris.

"The debris is estimated to be about four inches in diameter, part of a spent Chinese satellite upper stage," NASA said.

Earlier last week, astronauts worked to attach the final pair of solar wings to the space station, in order to nearly double the amount of power onboard the ISS so that more crewmembers will be able to board the laboratory for longer periods of time.

The new set of 115-foot wings was successfully unfurled on Friday, bringing the total number to eight attached to the space station.

NASA said Discovery must return to Earth before a Russian Soyuz rocket launches on March 26 carrying a new set of crewmembers to the orbiting outpost.


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