Sunday, May 22, 2011

Jumping bolts modify spacewalk plan

Spacewalkers will perform a more limited lube job on a joint that rotates International Space Station solar arrays, after bolts holding down protective covers began popping off at an alarming rate.

Mission controllers asked spacewalker Mike Fincke to use his gloved hands for the final turns of bolts.

On his first try, Fincke couldn't budge a bolt with his hands. After some half turns of a drill set to a reduced speed, the bolt popped off again and Fincke caught it.

"Again he gets the Golden Glove award for another good catch," said Steve Swanson, the astronaut communicating with the spacewalkers from Houston.

Fincke will remove four covers rather than the six originally planned.

The covers must come off so Fincke can apply grease to the 10.5-foot diameter joint, which was to be rotated 200 degrees to spread that grease around before adding more lubrication.

Managers are reassessing the timeline to see how much the spacewalk can accomplish after the bolt issues.

The spacewalk began at 2:05 a.m. and is nearly halfway through the planned six-and-a-half hour duration.

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