Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Astronauts Hand Experiment Off To Robot

Spacewalking astronauts Mike Fossum and Ron Garan are off to set up a materials science experiment outside the International Space Station after handing off a technology demonstration kit to a two-armed Canadian robot.

The 500-pound package houses a robotic refueling experiment that will be operated by the Dextre robot after the shuttle Atlantis departs the international outpost. The boxy experiment is equipped to test the tools, techniques and technologies requires to robotically refuel and repair satellites -- particularly those not designed to be serviced in orbit.

The project is a joint effort of NASA and the Canadian Space Agency.

Fossum and Garan now aim to set up a materials science experiment. A suitcase-like case is filled with samples of paints, coatings and other material that might be used to develop next-generation spacecraft. The idea is to expose the samples to the vacuum environment and see which fare best.

The two are just about to reach the four-hour mark in a planned 6.5-hour excursion.

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