February 17, 2010

Astronauts Open Windows On The World

Endeavour Pilot Terry Virts opened the windows one at a time early Wednesday, giving spacewalkers Robert Behnken and Nicholas Patrick an early look into the International Space Station's room with a view that they had helped install.

Behnken and Patrick wrapped up their third and final planned spacewalk, a 5-hour, 48-minute excursion, at 2:03 a.m. CST. They completed all of their planned tasks, removing insulation blankets and removing launch restraint bolts from each of the cupola's seven windows.

Inside the cupola, Virts opened and then closed each window in turn, beginning at 11:25 p.m. with the circular 31.5-inch center window. He was the first to look out of that largest station window, on Tranquility's Earth-facing port, which will offer valuable views of the Earth and a good look for station robotic arm operators.

Near the end of the spacewalk, all the windows were opened simultaneously. Mission Specialist Kathryn Hire congratulated the spacewalkers for "raising the curtain on a bay window to the world."

Early in the spacewalk, Behnken opened the second of two ammonia loops to allow coolant to flow through Tranquility, providing redundancy, and disconnected temporary power cables. Patrick installed heater and data cables connecting Tranquility to Pressurized Mating Adapter 3, which was moved to Tranquility's outboard port Tuesday.

The spacewalkers installed handrails on Tranquility, relocated a foot restraint and closed a centerline camera flap on Harmony's upper port, where PMA-3 had been attached. They routed video signal converter cables from the "rats' nest," the complex of cable connections on the S0 truss, to the Zarya module. That will help allow the station's Canadarm2 eventually to be operated from the Russian portion of the station.

Outfitting of Tranquility and the cupola continued, with astronauts preparing parts of the regenerative environmental control system for transfer to the module. Expedition 22 Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi replaced the Recycle Filter Tank Assembly, part of the Water Recycling System, before filling the replacement tank. The replaced tank will be returned to Earth on Endeavour.


Image Caption: Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi took this view from inside the cupola. The cupola's window shutters are open and the Sahara desert is visible below. Image credit: Soichi Noguchi


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