Astronauts unpack space station's radiator, collect science experiment in final spacewalk

Friday, September 15th 2006, 5:52 am
By: News On 6

HOUSTON (AP) _ Two astronauts unpacked a new radiator Friday and perform some fix-it tasks outside the international space station before wrapping up the final spacewalk of shuttle Atlantis' 11-day mission.

Spacewalkers Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper and Joe Tanner also picked up a science experiment, replaced an antenna and took video of the space shuttle's heat shield during their 6 hour and 42 minutes in space.

``We have to say, what a wonderful job you both did today,'' Pam Melroy in Mission Control told them after they were back inside the space station's airlock.

The radiator will be a key part of the space station's solar energy arrays, dissipating the heat generated by the solar panels' electronics.

Piper and Tanner had started the installation of the $372 million solar panel addition to the space station in their first spacewalk, and on Friday wrapped up the third and final outing of Atlantis' 11-day mission. It was the first construction mission to the space station since the 2003 Columbia disaster.

A minor glitch delayed the spacewalkers Friday morning, but it was fixed after about 45 minutes.

``Oh, that's a beautiful view,'' Piper said as she floated out of the spacecraft.

Atlantis delivered a 17 1/2-ton truss with two solar panel wings that were unfurled on Thursday and that will eventually provide a quarter of the space station's power. They won't begin generating electricity until the next space mission, though, when the power system is rewired, expected in December.

``You just can't imagine a flight going as well as this one has gone,'' said lead space station flight director John McCullough. ``I couldn't ask for a better start _ a re-start _ to assembly.''

As they worked on the radiator, Tanner took a moment to appreciate the view.

``Kind of nice up here,'' he said.

``Didn't get a chance to look around much,'' Piper said. ``At least I can say I've been here.''

``Not too many people have,'' Tanner said.

The two also picked up a science experiment that tested how various materials fare in space.

The delay was due to a surge of electricity that activated a circuit breaker. The spacewalking astronauts spend time in a depressurized room to rid their bodies of nitrogen and avoid decompression sickness, and the depressurization pump in that room shut down with the surge. NASA determined the pump did not short and simply restarted it, said spokesman Bill Jeffs.

There also was a temporary glitch with Piper's space suit _ the oxygen pressure dropped momentarily, but it came back up.

The astronauts woke up to the rock hit ``Hotel California'' by the Eagles, a song Tanner's family dedicated to him.

``That song reminds me of some great traveling adventures, sort of like this one,'' Tanner said. ``It's gonna be a great day.''

When Atlantis undocks from the space station on Sunday, the astronauts will fly around it and examine their handiwork, said Mike Suffredini, space station program manager.

This will be the first time since the Columbia broke apart that a crew will be able to do that. Besides the aesthetic benefits, NASA will also be able to check up on areas of the station its engineers don't normally see _ something they aim to do at least once a year.

The crew lands is scheduled to land back on Earth on Wednesday.