Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lube job may be limited after bolt flies away

One of the bolts popping off covers being removed by Endeavour spacewalker Mike Fincke has slowly floated away.

International Space Station crew members were able to take pictures of the bolt from the Cupola. There's no indication the free-floating bolt poses any danger to the station.

"It's moving quite slowly," reported Fincke's spacewalking parnter, Drew Fuestel. "It's not moving towards the solar arrays."

"I was super, extra careful," said Fincke. "I was very surprised to see it shoot."

A washer is also loose and Fincke is trying to keep it out of the inner workings of the huge rotating solar array joint he's working on.

Mission controllers suggested he use "gentle backhand sweeping motions" to control the washer.

"You'll be a Hubble (spacewalk) guy yet," joked Feustel, who in 2009 performed three Hubble Space Telescope servicing spacewalks that included efforts to contain dozens of tiny screws that could have come loose.

Before the bolt flew away, Fincke had caught several others that came loose.

Mission controllers surmise that the flimsy washers got bent as the joint covers have been taken on and off. They are now considering a plan that would remove fewer covers and only partially lubricate the joint.

"We'll lube what we can and put back together what we can," said Greg Chamitoff, the astronaut assisting the spacewalkers from inside Endeavour.

Fincke initially planned to remove six of 22 covers.

Meanwhile, Feustel has had no trouble so far venting lines hooked up to transfer ammonia from a tank to a radiator.

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