Friday, May 27, 2011

Final Endeavour Spacewalk Underway At Station

Two Americans are venturing outside the International Space Station today on the last spacewalk ever to be performed by shuttle astronauts.

Mission specialist Mike Fincke and Greg Chamitoff switched their spacesuit batteries on at 12:15 a.m., marking the start of what is expected to be a 6.5-hour excursion aimed at leaving the station in the best possible condition prior to the retirement in July of NASA's shuttle fleet.

The hatch to the airlock swung open as the joined shuttle-station complex soared 220 miles over the dark side of Earth.

"As you guys can see, it's dark out there," crewmate Drew Feustel said.

"Yes, it is," Fincke said.

Given a go to exit the airlock, Fincke added: "Yippee!"

The prime objective of the spacewalk is to take the shuttle's 50-foot-long inspection boom and leave it for outpost crews to use as an extension boom for the station's 57.5-foot Canadian robot arm.

The laser sensors and TV camera on the tip of the boom will not survive the extreme temperature fluctuations at the station -- from 250 degrees Fahrenheit to Minus 250 degrees Fahrenheit. But it would significantly extend the reach of the Canadian "Big Arm."

Astronauts on the second post-Columbia shuttle test flight showed that the boom, latched to the end of the shuttle's 50-foot robot arm, could provide a stable platform for spacewalking work.

You can follow the action right here in The Flame Trench. Click the NASA TV box on the right to launch our NASA TV viewer and round-the-clock coverage of the STS-134 mission -- the 25th and final flight of the orbiter Endeavour.

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