Saturday, November 21, 2009

Atlantis spacewalker: "Can you hear me now?"

Atlantis spacewalker Mike Foreman is struggling to hear crewmates through his spacesuit's audio system, but it hasn't prevented him and partner Randy Bresnik from running ahead of schedule today.

Outside the International Space Station, the duo just finished relocating a device that measures the build-up of electric charge outside the outpost, a potential hazard to spacewalkers.

Foreman, making his fifth spacewalk, is frequently asking crewmates to repeat themselves.

"Can you hear me now?" Bresnik asked at one point, as if dealing with spotty cell phone reception.

Foreman had audio trouble near the end of the mission's first spacewalk on Wednesday. Managers thought a spacesuit volume switch might have been bumped.

It was also possible that moisture in his communications cap, worn beneath his spacesuit helmet, was causing interference.

Foreman noted the problem again before exiting the station airlock around 9:30 this morning, but elected to proceed without delaying the spacewalk to work on it.

The issue has not impacted the spacewalk, which is running about an hour ahead of schedule.

The next job will be to deploy a cargo attachment system on the Starboard 3 segment of the station's truss, near where a large platform of spare parts was robotically installed earlier this morning.

That should take about 90 minutes, but the spacewalkers will first pause at the Quest airlock to recharge their oxygen supply (left), which was projected to last six hours.

Managers had cancelled a half-hour planned for get-ahead tasks since false alarms overnight on the station delayed the spacewalks's start. But they may now be able to add the work back into the timeline.

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