Monday, February 28, 2011

Orbital Electricians Work Outside Station

Discovery astronauts Stephen Bowen and Al Drew have gathered up all their tools and are heading off to tackle a myriad of tasks during 6.5 hours of work outside the International Space Station.

Their first job: Rigging up an electrical extension cable between the U.S. Unity module and the Quest airlock.

The cable routes power to airlock heaters. Adding an extension will make future maintenance work easier once Discovery’s prime payload – a permanent stowage unit – is put in place on Unity’s Earth-facing port.

The astronauts switched their spacesuits to battery power at 10:46 a.m., about 32 minutes ahead of schedule.

Bowen's helmet-cam is not working, but Drew's will give engineers up close looks at the work being done outside the outpost.

After exiting the U.S. Quest airlock and making certain that braided safety tethers were secure, Bowen took a moment to snap a photo of Drew, who is making his first spacewalk.

Bowen also wanted to orient himself with the Earth below.

"Where are we now over the planet," Bowen asked Discovery mission specialist Nicole Stott, who is directing the spacewalking work from inside the joined shuttle-station complex.

"Coming up over the west coast of Africa and Spain," she said.

Linked up some 220 miles above Earth, Discovery and the station are traveling at 17,500 mph -- five miles a second, 25 times the speed of sound.

The spacewalk is the 154th performed at the outpost since station construction began in late 1998.

You can watch live here in The Flame Trench. Click the NASA TV box to launch our NASA TV viewer and be sure to fresh this page for periodic updates.

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