March 24, 2006

NASA Gives Green Light for Spacewalks

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP) -- NASA said Thursday it approved a new method for crew members to attach themselves to the outside of the international space station for U.S. spacewalks, which were put on hold a day earlier.

The discovery of some odd bubbling inside some handrails still on the ground -- but similar to those that line the U.S. part of the floating lab -- had prompted space station managers to halt spacewalks on Wednesday.

NASA will resume spacewalks if they are needed but will require crew members to attach their tethers to a base that anchors the handrails to the station, said Kylie Clem, a NASA spokeswoman at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

NASA planned to continue testing the handrails to make sure they haven't been compromised, but results likely won't be known until April. The earliest scheduled spacewalk is this summer.

Meanwhile, Russian spacewalks have been put on hold because four canisters needed to rid carbon dioxide from the air that spacewalkers breathe can't be located on the station. A supply vehicle is scheduled to arrive next month with new canisters. (Full story)

U.S. astronaut Bill McArthur and Russian cosmonaut Valery Tokarev have been working on the space station since October 3. They are to be relieved by a crew that is scheduled to arrive at the station March 31 after launching from Kazakhstan.