May 19, 2010

Astronaut Untangles Cable During Spacewalk

An astronaut freed a snagged cable on the inspection boom for space shuttle Atlantis during a spacewalk on Wednesday, earning him the "superhero" title.

Stephen Bowen got started on the International Space Station's battery replacements once he finished freeing the wire.

Untangling the wire was the first thing he did during his second spacewalk on Atlantis' visit to the ISS.

The cable prevented the shuttle astronauts from thoroughly inspecting their ship for any possible damage from last week's launch.  NASA wanted to have it untangled as soon as possible, so they added it to the list of to do's during Wednesday's spacewalk.

Astronauts working inside moved the end of the 100-foot inspection boom within an easy reach for Bowen.

"Keep coming. Another 6 inches or so," Bowen called out. "Perfect. Stop."

A few minutes later, he announced: "I have it unsnagged."

"Well done, superhero," shuttle pilot Dominic "Tony" Antonelli radioed from inside.

Bowed said the cable did not appear to be damaged.  However, while he was tying the cord back so it would not get tangled again, he found another wire tie that was already there and causing the cable to get hung up.

Bowen slid the loose wire tie into position.  Even if it causes the cable to jam again, flight controllers said it could be jerked loose and allow the camera tilting system to operate properly.

The majority of the time during the spacewalk involved replacing the batteries.

Bowen, along with his partner Michael Good, quickly replaced the first of three batteries they needed to replace.

"It seems to me like you guys are cruising, like you're riding the tsunami," Antonelli said.

As the shuttle soared 220 miles above the South Pacific, the crew urged the spacewalkers to take a momentary break and check out the Southern Lights.  They managed to catch a glimpse of the aurora.

The batteries are 3 feet square and 375 pounds apiece. 

Three more batteries will be replaced Friday during the final spacewalk.

Atlantis delivered the fresh batteries over the weekend, along with a Russian compartment that was installed on Tuesday.

The day after liftoff the astronauts conducted a survey of Atlantis.  NASA wanted the cable on the end of the 100-foot inspection boom untangled so the shuttle can be properly checked.

Flight controllers did not have any reason to believe the shuttle was damaged during liftoff.  The astronauts will check the shuttle's wings and nose cap after Sunday's undocking for any micrometeorite damage that may have occurred during orbit as a precautionary.

The safety inspections became standard after space shuttle Columbia shattered furring re-entry in 2003.

This is Atlantis' final flight as the shuttle program winds down.  Space shuttle Endeavour and Discovery each still have one more flight to go.


Image Caption: Mission Specialist Stephen Bowen adjusts a foot restraint during the second STS-132 spacewalk. Image credit: NASA TV


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