Astronauts Take Spacewalk to Wire Up Station's Newest Room, Keep December Trip on Track

Tuesday, November 20th 2007, 5:39 am
By: News On 6

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) _ Two astronauts went out on a spacewalk Tuesday to wire up the international space station's newest room and keep the next shuttle visit on track for early December.

Commander Peggy Whitson and Daniel Tani's needed to hook up power and heater cables and fluid lines between the space station and the Harmony compartment that was delivered by the shuttle last month.

The fluid lines _ for carrying ammonia, a coolant _ were in an 18 1/2-foot, 300-pound tray that the spacewalkers were going to have to lug to Harmony and then bolt down.

Last week, the astronauts used the space station's robot arm to move the school bus-size Harmony to its permanent location.

NASA cannot launch another space shuttle until Harmony is all hooked up, inside and out. Atlantis is supposed to blast off Dec. 6 with a European laboratory that will dock to Harmony. One of Harmony's other parking spaces is reserved for a Japanese lab.

The space station's three residents have been working almost nonstop since Discovery's departure two weeks ago. This was their second spacewalk; a third and final outing is set for Saturday to attach another fluid tray to Harmony.

They've already volunteered to work on Thanksgiving.

``With this particular crew on board, I don't know if holidays mean anything to them. They are just a hard-charging, get-it-done crew,'' Kenny Todd, a space station manager, said late last week. ``We'll have to make sure they understand that it's Thanksgiving, and take some time and take a breath.''

NASA is still trying to figure out how to fix a jammed joint that is needed to turn one of the space station's two sets of huge solar wings. Even though Discovery's crew returned samples of steel shavings clogging the joint, engineers were unable to ascertain which parts are grinding against each other.

The joint will probably need to be cleaned and fixed, a formidable task requiring as many as four spacewalks, before Japan's lab can fly next year. Astronauts on the next shuttle flight may squeeze in a joint inspection.