Thursday, May 14, 2009

Live In Orbit: Spacewalkers Wrestle Stuck Bolt

LIVE IMAGES: Refresh this page for periodic updates and the latest still image from NASA TV.

Spacewalking astronauts are attempting to remove a workhorse planetary camera from the Hubble Space Telescope, but a balky bolt is giving them trouble.

Atlantis mission specialist Drew Feustel is trying to unbolt a grounding strap on the Wide Field Planetary 2 so the instrument -- which is the size and shape of a baby grand piano -- so it can be pulled out of the telescope bay that houses it.

Feustel first tried to unscrew the bolt with a pistol-grip power tool. No joy. Then spacewalking partner John Grunsfeld fetched another tool that would give Feustel more torque and leverage. Still no joy.

Now Grunsfeld is headed back to the airlock to get a short adjustable tool -- one that might enable Feustel to get the job done.

NASA and contractor ATK designed and developed 114 tools for the Hubble servicing mission, so mission managers suspect the spacewalkers will be able to overcome the problem.

And in any case, flight commentator Kyle Herring said, the astronauts would have alternative approaches that would enable them to continue the instrument removal even if the grounding strap bolt cannot be unfastened.

Feustel is anchored to the end of the shuttle's 50-foot robotic arm, and he's snapping photos of Atlantis.

"Wow, it's a great view of the vehicle," he said.

"Amazing, isn't it?" crewmate Mike Massimino said from inside Atlantis.

You can watch the action unfold right here in The Flame Trench. Simply click the Live Shuttle Broadcast box on the righthand side of this page to launch our NASA TV viewer and live coverage.

And be sure to refresh this page for periodic updates.

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