September 4, 2009

Astronauts Perform Second Spacewalk

Two astronauts ventured outside of space Shuttle Discovery Thursday evening for the mission's second spacewalk.

Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang and US astronaut Danny Olivas left the shuttle on Thursday at 2212 GMT for a spacewalk intended to last 6.5 hours.

The spacewalkers spent the night in the Quest airlock to prepare for the second of three planned spacewalks for the mission.

By 07:34:30 PM CST, NASA reported that Fuglesang and Olivas had successfully installed a new liquid ammonia tank at the Port 1 truss that will be used to cool the International Space Station.

The spacewalkers now face the task of removing the 1,295-pound empty tank assembly and placing it into the shuttle's cargo bay with help from the ISS' robotic arm, which is being controlled by Nicole Stott and Kevin Ford.

Thursday's spacewalk makes Fuglesang the first astronaut outside the US or Russia to venture out on more than three spacewalks.

Prior to the second spacewalk, NASA officials were closely watching a piece of space junk that was drifting near the ISS.

"Mission Control evaluated a piece of space junk and decided it's not necessary to move the space shuttle/space station to avoid it," NASA said via microblogging site Twitter.

The debris was reportedly part of an old European rocket. It had an estimated surface area of 200 square feet, according to the Associated Press.

About 19,000 pieces of space junk the size of 10 centimeters or more are considered to be floating in space, NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office says.


Image Caption: Riding the station's robotic arm, STS-128 Mission Specialist Christer Fuglesang moves an empty tank assembly into the shuttle's cargo bay. Credit: NASA TV 


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