Thursday, May 14, 2009

Live In Orbit: Astronauts A Bit Behind Schedule

The Atlantis astronauts are preparing to depressurize the shuttle's airlock, setting the stage for two crewmates to head outside on the first of five spacewalks to be carried out over the next five days.

Mission specialists John Grunsfeld and Drew Feustel had been slated to switch their spacesuits to battery power at 8:16 a.m., marking the beginning of their spacewalk. But preparations for the excursion are running about 30 minutes behind schedule.

The delay in the start of today's spacewalk is not a big surprise. NASA mission planners laid out an aggressive schedule that moved up the start time into what normally would be the crew's three-hour period of post-sleep activities.

The top priority today: Removing the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, which has been operating since late 1993, and replacing it with the Wide Field Camera 3, a next-generation instrument that will allow astronomers to see light emitted from galaxies just 600 million years after the Big Bang.

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