Monday, July 27, 2009

Live in orbit: Final spacewalk is mission's shortest

Astronauts Tom Marshburn and Chris Cassidy have completed the fifth and final spacewalk of Endeavour's 16-day International Space Station assembly mission.

"Great job on the five outstanding (spacewalks)," radioed Japanese astronaut Aki Hoshide from Mission Control in Houston.

The last spacewalk didn't last as long as the 6.5 hours expected.

The spacewalkers returned to the station's Quest airlock and plugged into the station's power at 12:27 p.m. EDT, four hours and 54 minutes after they left.

The spacewalk accomplished an assortment of tasks, chief among them the installation of two video cameras on the recently installed porch of Japan's Kibo science laboratory.

The cameras will help an unmanned resupply ship dock in September and finished a three-mission effort to put together the lab, the station's largest.

They also gave the station more back-up capability by rewiring power to two gyroscopes, so one power failure won't knock both out.

One more significant task was planned, but there wasn't enough time.

The spacewalkers hoped to install a device that will hold large spare parts on the starboard side of the station's main truss.

Instead, the ran through a series of so-called "get aheads" that will save time on future missions.

They included installing a number of handrails and sockets that devices like foot restraints can be attached to, and tied down some cables outside the Destiny lab.

The Quest airlock hatch has been closed the airlock is now being repressurized from a vacuum to sea level air pressure.

This was the 130th spacewalk supporting space station maintenance and assembly, which began in 1998. Total duration for all of them: 810 hours, 36 minutes.

Total spacewalking time for Endeavour's STS-127 mission: 30 hours, 30 minutes.

That means the mission won't set a record for station assembly work. A previous Endeavour flight, STS-123 in March 2008, retains that mark with a total of 33 hours, 29 minutes -- about three hours more than Endeavour.

Marshburn and Cassidy each finished their third career spacewalk.

Marshburn totaled 18 hours, 59 minutes, while Cassidy logged 18 hours, 5 minutes.

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