Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Discovery spacewalkers start work ahead of schedule

Nearly an hour ahead of schedule, Discovery spacewalkers have opened the International Space Station's Quest airlock hatch and begun climbing outside to begin the mission's third and final spacewalk.

Rick Mastracchio and Clay Anderson switched their suits to battery power at 2:14 a.m. EDT to officially begin the spacewalk, the sixth for each of them, as the joined shuttle and station flew 218 miles over Australia.

"Guys, have a great time out there, last EVA of the flight," radioed pilot Jim Dutton.

"It's a beautiful day to go EVA," added mission specialist Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, who is assisting the spacewalkers from inside Discovery's flight deck.

Both referred to the NASA term for a spacewalk -- Extra-Vehicular Activity, or "EVA" for short.

Mastracchio left the airlock first, after having a little bit of trouble opening the hatch. Mission controllers asked him to inspect it on the way out.

This is the 143rd spacewalk in support of space station assembly and maintenance, and the 235th by U.S spacewalkers.

Mastracchio, the lead spacewalker, is called "EV-1" and will be identifiable by a spacesuit with red stripes and a helmet camera showing No. 19 in the bottom right corner.

Anderson, "EV-2," is in an all-white suit and his helmet camera shows No. 20.

First up: Anderson will grab some debris shields that a previous mission, STS-129 last November, stowed outside the airlock.

Mastracchio will move to the Starboard 1 truss segment to hook up fluid lines -- two nitrogen and two ammonia lines -- to a new ammonia tank the pair installed Sunday, finishing that job.

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