Space station astronauts complete nearly 8-hour spacewalk


February 01, 2007|By ORLANDO SENTINEL

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Two NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station ventured outside for more than seven hours yesterday to turn on the orbital lab's permanent cooling system.

Spacewalkers Michael Lopez-Alegria and Sunita Williams disconnected an interim setup that supported the station during its first phase of construction. Then they reattached fluid lines and electrical cables to one of two coolant systems that will service the outpost for its remaining life. The other will be switched over during a spacewalk scheduled for Sunday.

Flight controllers had no problems powering up the new system shortly after the astronauts finished the job.

"You guys have been doing really good work," a NASA manager radioed from the ground. "I know it's been hard," he said, referring to the tight places in which the astronauts worked.

The spacewalk lasted seven hours and 55 minutes. Although the excursion ran up to an hour behind schedule, Williams and Lopez-Alegria were able to complete almost all of the major tasks.

The spacewalk was the first of three scheduled for Williams and Lopez-Alegria during a nine-day period. The next excursion, planned for Sunday, consists of tasks similar to yesterday's. A third spacewalk is scheduled for Feb. 8 to remove thermal shrouds from a solar array structural truss.

Lopez-Alegria and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin are in the midst of a seven-month stay aboard the station that began Sept. 20.

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