Flight day 4

Beamer and I have trained together for the EVAs

The spacewalk

There are approximately four hours of preparation in the morning before the spacewalk, despite the fact that a whole lot is done the night before. The spacesuits are awkward to put on, or more accurately, to crawl into. It is important that the job is done carefully and several checks are carried out to make sure that nothing goes wrong.

Besides wasting a lot of time if you forgot something, it is also a dangerous environment in the vacuum of space. BillyO is the one who 'dresses' us; he also guides the spacewalk from the flight-deck of the Space Shuttle. In the airlock we also have help from Thomas and/or one of the other members of the crew of the ISS.

Before Beamer opens the airlock we have connected ourselves securely to our safety-lines. Then he glides out from the Space Station and I send out the equipment that we will need before I myself follow him out. It is true that it is called a 'walk', but it is almost exclusively with the arms that you work and move around on the Station.

Our first task is to connect P5 and P4 together, furthest out on the port side of the truss. P stands, by the way, for 'port', i.e. the left side in plain English. Inside the ISS, Joanie and Sunni manoeuvre Canadarm2 with P5 attached and steer it into place. It is tricky, as different parts belonging to P4's solar panels stick out in the way and P5 must almost be threaded through like a piece of cotton through the eye of a needle.

We will start our spacewalk by leaving through the Quest airlock

At the narrowest points we only have a few centimetres of clearance from a container carrying a 155 V direct current and people have been a bit worried that, if P5 should hit the container it would crackle and send out sparks, to the extent that I, nearest to it, could get an electric shock. So I have every reason to see to it that all goes well when I am monitoring P5's slow movement in towards P4. Furthermore, inside the ISS they can't see properly what is happening but have to trust in what Beamer and I say and in that way we actually guide P5.

Unlike almost all of the other modules on the ISS, P5 has no automatic bolts that can be remotely controlled from the inside; rather we have to screw them securely by hand, although we do have a sophisticated battery driven bolt wrench that is called a PGT: Pistol Grip Tool. After that, a number of small jobs on P5 follow; there are grounding straps to be connected and the attachment for the robotic arm must be removed.

The other major task during the first spacewalk is to replace a broken camera, which should take a little over one hour. After a total of six hours we are back in the airlock and Beamer closes the hatch behind us. Tired, more mentally than physically, we are well taken care of by BillyO and the others. We quickly get out of our spacesuits and don’t need to clean up or tidy up after ourselves. That night we get a good night's sleep on the Space Shuttle.

Last update: 25 October 2006

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