Sunday, May 22, 2011

Endeavour crew completes sixth-longest spacewalk

Two Endeavour astronauts at 10:12 a.m. EDT completed a spacewalk extended because of trouble containing loose bolts.

"You guys earned your pay for the day," said Greg Chamitoff, an astronaut assisting the spacewalkers from inside Endeavour, before they floated inside the International Space Station's Quest airlock.

"I think our pay was just being out here looking at the Earth spinning by," replied lead spacewalker Drew Feustel. "Beautiful."

Feustel and Mike Fincke were at it for eight hours and seven minutes, enough to qualify them for the sixth-longest U.S. spacewalk. Their "EVA," or extra-vehicular activity, was originally scheduled to last six-and-a-half hours.

The longest U.S. spacewalk on record lasted four minutes shy of nine hours. 

While removing some protective covers on a joint that rotates solar arrays, Fincke was surprised to find at least bolts he was unscrewing pop loose of their fittings, apparently because washers that should have kept them in place had gone flimsy.

One bolt floated away and Fincke caught another.

In all, Fincke removed four covers, two less than planned. The astronauts greased a rotating wheel in the exposed areas, and worked overtime to get three of the four covers bolted back in place (pictured above).

They brought one cover back into the airlock for a closer inspection.

The rest of their work went smoothly.

Feustel vented lines used to pump five pounds of ammonia into a radiator coolant loop that has been leaking slightly, which was expected to be the more difficult task because of the potential for sticky valves or ammonia contamination on his spacesuit.

With no apparent contamination, time reserved to "bake out" ammonia wasn't needed.

Feustel also performed maintenance on the station's Dextre robot, installing a cap on a camera lens and lubricating an arm. Endeavour pilot Greg Johnson and Expedition 27 flight engineer Cady Coleman used the station's 58-foot robotic arm to position Dextre in front of Feustel, then returned it to its home on the Destiny lab.

Fincke installed a couple of grapple bars.

Here are some updated statistics following today's outing:

-- 246th spacewalk by U.S. astronauts.
-- 157th spacewalk supporting station assembly and maintenance, totaling 988 hours, 19 minutes. That total will likely top 1,000 hours during this shuttle mission.
-- 2nd spacewalk for the STS-134/Endeavour crew, totaling 14 hours, 26 minutes.
-- 7th spacewalk by Fincke -- his first in a U.S. spacesuit -- for a total of 34 hours, 19 minutes (No. 32 all-time).
-- 5th spacewalk by Feustel, for a total of 35 hours, 24 minutes (No. 30 all-time).
Feustel and Fincke will partner again on the 16-day mission's third of four spacewalks, scheduled to begin at 1:46 a.m. Wednesday.

Managers have been reviewing plans for that spacewalk to possibly include work to install some antennas that couldn't be finished during Friday's first spacewalk, which was cut short when a sensor failed in Chamitoff's spacesuit.

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