Successful first spacewalk for Shuttle crew
ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang and his NASA colleague Robert Curbeam last night successfully completed a 6 hour 36 minute spacewalk to install a new section of the International Space Station's truss.
The spacewalk began at 21:31 CET (20:31 UT) when the astronauts ventured outside the Station through a hatch in the Quest airlock. Their main task during the EVA was to install a 1.8-tonne section of the truss - the Station's girder-like backbone structure.
The truss section, known as P5, was transported to the ISS inside the Space Shuttle's cargo bay. P5 was removed from the cargo bay on Monday using the Shuttle and Station robotic arms.
During the spacewalk Fuglesang and Curbeam were supported from inside the ISS by Joan Higgenbotham, who used the Station's robotic arm, Canadarm2, to manoeuvre the truss section in to place.
After installing P5, Fuglesang and Curbeam moved onto other tasks, including replacing a failed camera needed to support future assembly tasks. There was also time for some extra tasks that will save future spacewalkers time, including plugging the new segment into the existing truss, removing the locks that held it steady during launch and opening a latch that will allow another truss segment, P6, to be attached when it is moved from its current, temporary location to its permanent place at the end of the port truss.
Upon returning to the Quest airlock at the end of the spacewalk, Fuglesang took a moment to say some words in Swedish – thanking those who have supported him and saying how incredible the last four days had been. Curbeam added a few words to congratulate NASA scientist, Dr. John C. Mather, who recently received a Nobel Prize for his work on the big-bang theory. Fuglesang and Curbeam returned inside the Station at 04:07 CET (13 Dec.).
With the new port truss section in place, the crew can now move on to the second phase of the mission – rewiring the Station. That work will begin today when the port solar array on truss segment P6 is folded up, allowing the P4 solar arrays delivered by the last Shuttle mission to rotate and track the Sun.
Once that is completed, Curbeam and Fuglesang will head outside the Space Station again on Thursday to begin reconfiguring the external wiring so that power from the new solar arrays delivered in September can be used.