Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Stalled Preps Push Back Spacewalk Start

Preparations for the final shuttle-era spacewalk are running a little behind schedule, but the excursion is expected to start some time around 9:10 a.m.

International Space Station astronauts Mike Fossum and Ron Garan had been slated to exit the U.S. Quest airlock at 8:44 a.m. while visiting shuttle Atlantis astronauts haul supplies into the outpost and play support roles in the excursion. Atlantis mission specialists Sandra Magnus and pilot Doug Hurley will be operating the station's Canadian robot arm during the spacewalks.

The astronauts are employing a new protocol for ridding their vascular system of nitrogen that could cause decompression sickness during a spacewalk. The protocol calls for the astronauts to do about 50 minutes of light exercise in their spacesuits. The In-Suit Light Exercise (ISLE) procedure was first used by U.S. astronauts Drew Feustel and Mike Fincke during Endeavour's visit to the station in May.

The spacewalk will be the seventh career excursion for Fossum and the fourth for Garan. The two performed three spacewalks together during a station assembly mission in 2008.

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