Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Spacewalk Gets Underway At Space Station

Two American astronauts are venturing outside the International Space Station today, setting out on a spacewalk aimed at shoring up electrical power and bolstering construction capability on the Russian side of the outpost.

Endeavour mission specialists Drew Feustel and Mike Fincke switched their spacesuits to battery power inside the U.S. Quest airlock at 1:43 a.m., marking the start of a planned 6.5-hour excursion outside the outpost.

The spacewalk is the 247th performed by U.S. astronauts and the 158th carried out in the construction and maintenance of the $100 billion International Space Station. The first two building blocks of the complex were linked in late 1998 and it now weighs one million pounds and spans an area as large as an American football field.

You can follow the action 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 NASA's next-to-last shuttle mission.

Endeavour lead spacewalker Feustel is wearing the spacesuit with the solid red stripes and is answering to the radio call sign "EV-1" Fincke is "EV-2" and is wearing an all-white suit.

The first order of business: setting spacesuit life support controls. The astronauts also will be hooking up braided steel safety tethers that will keep the astronauts attached to the station at all times. Both are wearing jet backpacks that could be used to fly to safety if tethers somehow detached.

Additionally, the astronauts will be gathering up tools required for their work outside the outpost. The initial set-up work is expected to take 40 minutes. Then the spacewalkers will fetch a special fixture that will be attached to the outside of the Russian Zarya space tug. The Power & Data Grapple Fixture will serve as a mount for the station's Canadian-built robot arm.

You can follow along with the crew's detailed timeline starting on page 25 of this copy of Flight Day 9 Execute Package.

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