Sunday, May 17, 2009

Live: hard yank could be last shot at handrail

A hard yank by spacewalker Mike Massimino could be a last ditch effort to remove a handrail stuck in place on the Hubble Space Telescope.

A team at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland practiced the procedure and determined about 60 pounds of weight was needed to snap one last fastener holding the handrail in place.

"I think you've got that in you," astronaut Drew Feustel said to Massimino, from inside space shuttle Atlantis.

"That sounds like a good idea," said Massimino, who has been frustrated in attempts to free the screw with tools. "I'd like to try that."

But he needs to be careful.

"Once it snaps loose, it's all going to be coming toward you," Feustel said.

Massimino is wrapping some tape around screw holes to keep them or other debris from coming free when the handle breaks away.

He must also watch for any sharp edges that could cut his gloves or another part of his spacesuit.

The handrail must be freed to proceed with efforts to revive a dead spectrograph on Hubble.

One of four screws holding the handrail appeared to be stripped, and Massimino was unable to loosen it with a pistol drill.

The mission's fourth of five planned spacewalks began at 9:45 a.m. EDT.

No comments: