Spacewalk completes solar array retraction
During a spacewalk lasting over six and a half hours, ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang and NASA's Robert Curbeam successfully freed the International Space Station's jammed P6 solar array allowing it to fully retract.
Standing on the end of the Station's robotic arm, Canadarm2, Curbeam used tape-insulated tools to pull on the array's guide wires, whilst Fuglesang shook the panel several times. Gradually the solar array was fully retracted into its rectangular blanket box.
Space Station managers added the fourth spacewalk to the STS-116 Space Shuttle mission after the solar array failed to retract fully following remote commands last Wednesday. A major objective of the STS-116 mission, the P6 solar array needed to be retracted ahead of relocation to another part of the Station, making way for new arrays which will be added during a future Shuttle mission.
This was the third spacewalk for ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang after he also took part in the first two spacewalks of this mission; he has now accumulated 18 hours 14 minutes of spacewalk time. Fuglesang's spacewalk partner Robert Curbeam, became the first to participate in four spacewalks in one Shuttle mission, his seventh in total, bringing his combined spacewalk time to 45 hours 34 minutes.
Space Shuttle Discovery is due to undock later today at 23:09 CET (22:09 UT) – one day later than originally planned because of the addition of the extra spacewalk. Landing is scheduled for 21:56 CET (20:56 UT) on Friday 22 December on the runway at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, in Florida.