Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fourth Spacewalk Could Start 30 Minutes Early

Two Endeavour astronauts are suited up inside the U.S. Quest airlock at the International Space Station, preparing to head outside on the final spacewalk ever to be performed by a shuttle crew.

Mission specialists Mike Fincke and Greg Chamitoff are running about 30 minutes ahead of schedule, so their spacewalk could start as soon as 12:10 a.m. With an assist from Endeavour commander Mark Kelly and crewmate Drew Feustel, and station flight engineer Ron Garan, the astronauts zipped through preps for the fourth and final spacewalk scheduled during Endeavour's stay at the station.

Fincke and Feustel now are sealed inside the tunnel-like crew lock of Quest. Kelly is working outside and the depressurization of the airlock is under way.

The spacewalk will be the 248th performed by U.S. astronauts and the 159th carried out during the assembly and maintenance of the station, the first two building blocks of which were linked in low Earth orbit in late 1998.

A single spacewalk is planned during the nation's last shuttle mission in July. But space station crew members rather than shuttle astronauts will be performing that work.

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