Sunday, May 22, 2011

Spacewalkers: Plenty left in the tank

About two-thirds of the way through today's planned six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk, two Endeavour astronauts say they're ready to work overtime to finish their tasks outside the International Space Station.

"I feel good today," reported Drew Feustel. "I feel like I have a lot of gas left."

"I also have a lot of energy left and I'd like to see this through," echoed Mike Fincke.

Work to lubricate a rotating solar array joint (pictured) was scaled back when Fincke found bolts holding protective covers in place were prone to popping off rather than remaining captive.

At least one bolt floated away. Another came loose but was caught by Fincke.

The bolt trouble put the spacewalk about an hour behind schedule.

Fincke removed four covers instead of six, and the spacewalkers greased a rotating ring beneath them. Controllers on the ground are rotating the left Solar Alpha Rotary Joint to spread the lubrication, a process that will take about an hour.

The spacewalkers could wrap up after a second round of lubrication if they feel tired. Or they could continue on to reinstall three of the four covers for which all bolts are available, which is the option the astronauts now prefer.

"We don't want to keep leaving stuff for (spacewalk) three," said Feustel, referring to a task left unfinished during the mission's first spacewalk because of a spacesuit problem. "We'll run out of room."

Backing up the spacewalkers, Endeavour commander Mark Kelly said he was OK with the plan as long as it didn't extend the day's work by more than an hour.

The astronauts plenty of consumables available to stay out as long as needed.

The spacewalk is the second of four planned during Endeavour's 16-day mission. They are the last four spacewalks shuttle astronauts will perform before the shuttle program is retired this summer.

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