Monday, July 27, 2009

Astronauts begin final spacewalk

Astronauts from the space shuttle Endeavour donned their spacesuits and walked outside the International Space Station for the fifth and final spacewalk of their mission on Monday.

American astronauts Tom Marshburn and Christopher Cassidy got an early start to their job, switching their suits to battery power at 7:33 a.m. ET and climbing out of the station.

The pair will do a number of maintenance tasks outside the orbiting platform, including folding up a piece of insulation that popped up on the Canadian-made Dextre robotic manipulator, an extension of the station's Canadarm 2.

They will also rearrange some power cable hookups, install video cameras on the exposed "porch" of the Japan's Kibo laboratory and add more storage capability to the station's external structure.

The spacewalk is scheduled to last 6½ hours.

Endeavour arrived a week and a half ago, and its seven-person crew joined with the station's six-man team to install Kibo's exposed laboratory and perform a number of other maintenance tasks. With 13 astronauts in total at the joined shuttle-station, the mission featured the largest-ever gathering of people in space.

The shuttle is scheduled to depart on Tuesday, taking with it six of the astronauts who flew up to the station, including Canadian Julie Payette. Joining them on board Endeavour will be Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata, who had been a member of the station crew.

Tim Kopra of the U.S., who arrived aboard Endeavour, will remain on board with fellow American Michael Barratt, Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Roman Romanenko, Belgian astronaut Frank De Winne and Canadian Robert Thirsk, of New Westminster, B.C.

Endeavour is scheduled to return to the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Friday.

1 comment: