May 25, 2011

Astronauts Finish Up Third Spacewalk

Astronauts on space shuttle Endeavour's final mission completed their third spacewalk on Wednesday.

Drew Feustel and Mike Fincke completed an excursion that spanned about seven hours to get the station ready to operate after the shuttle program ends this summer.

It was the third of four spacewalks planned during Endeavour's 16-day mission.  The fourth spacewalk is scheduled for Friday.

The two astronauts installed a fixture to allow the station's robot crane to move over to the Russian side of the $100 billion complex, and laying cables to route power from the U.S. solar array wings to the station's Russian modules.

Astronauts have contended with a series of challenges over the three spacewalks, including a faulty spacesuit sensor that spurred ground controllers to cut the first spacewalk short and errant bolts that unexpectedly floated free during the second.

Fincke got temporarily entangled on Wednesday in his safety tether, and Feustel struggled with an irritated eye.

"My right eye is stinging like crazy," Feustel said. "The problem with tears in space is that they don't fall off of your eye."

Mission Control urged Feustel and Fincke to go back in as their spacewalk came to an end, even though they were willing to keep going.

"It's been a great day, a great (spacewalk), and we'd like you to finish up on a great note," Mission Control said.

Endeavour arrived at the space station on May 18 for a 12-day servicing call.

NASA said on Tuesday it plans to build a new spaceship called Orion that can travel beyond the station's orbit where the shuttles cannot go. 

The space agency will retire its shuttle program due to high operating costs and to free up funds for new exploration initiatives to asteroids, the moon and eventually to Mars.

Endeavour is due back to the Kennedy Space center in Florida on June 1.

Space shuttle Atlantis is due to embark on the program's final mission on July 8.


Image Caption: STS-134 Mission Specialists Andrew Feustel and Mike Fincke participate in the mission's third spacewalk as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA


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