Thursday, July 23, 2009

Live in Orbit: Experiment Transfer Under Way

Astronauts on board the International Space Station are in the process of transferring a science experiment from a carrier to the new exposed porch on Japan's Kibo science lab complex.

The work is running about an hour behind schedule.

A robotic arm on the lab is being used for mission operations for the first time to move the experiment, called the Monitor of All-Sky X-Ray Image, or MAXI.

Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, the arm's lead operator this morning, had a little trouble grappling the box holding the science instruments and needed to re-grapple it.

Assisted by space shuttle Endeavour commander Mark Polansky, he is in the process of moving MAXI to the lab's Exposed Facility, or porch, which was flown up by Endeavour and attached to the lab earlier in the mission.

Transfer of another experiment and some communications equipment to the porch is the primary task for today, roughly halfway through the 16-day mission.

Other astronauts - 13 are on the docked station and shuttle - have worked to move a balky experiment freezer from the station to the shuttle's mid-deck for return to Earth.

Spacewalkers Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn are also preparing for the mission's fourth spacewalk on Friday.

They'll attempt to replace the final four of six new batteries on the station's oldest set of solar array wings, in operation since 2000.

A problem with Cassidy's spacesuit on Wednesday forced him and David Wolf to cut short that work, after installing the first two new batteries. They had planned to install four.

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