Cape Canaveral, Fla. Two spacewalking astronauts successfully installed a massive billion-dollar robot arm on the international space station on Sunday and unfolded the two-handed limb.
"Look at the size of this thing," space shuttle Endeavour crewman Chris Hadfield marveled as he tugged open the 58-foot, 3,600-pound arm. The arm remained bent at the elbow and was to be extended Monday by the space station crew working inside.
It was Canada's biggest day ever in space: the first Canadian spacewalker hooking up the new Canadian-built robot arm on space station Alpha.
At the conclusion of the seven-hour spacewalk, Mission Control congratulated Hadfield and his U.S. spacewalking partner, Scott Parazynski, in English and French and played a recording of "Oh Canada," the country's anthem. The recording was made at a Montreal hockey game.
"We're real proud of your work up there getting Canadarm2 operational," said Steven MacLean, a Canadian astronaut working in Mission Control. "And if you turn around and look down, I believe you're right over Newfoundland."
The new arm will serve as a high-tech construction crane throughout the lifetime of the space station. With a hand on both ends and seven joints along its length, the arm is designed to move across the space station like an inchworm and perform chores wherever needed.
Hadfield's performance was especially impressive: He had to fight burning eyes as he worked 240 miles up. His eyes began filling with tears midway through the spacewalk, and he had to shut them. After several minutes, his left eye improved.
"My right eye is kind of half-closed all the time, but I think it's going to clear," Hadfield assured his crewmates inside Endeavour. "I tell you, it's weird spacewalking and floating through space with your eyes closed."
NASA officials suspect helmet-antifog soap or sweat got in his eyes.
Pilot Jeffrey Ashby began the day's events, using Endeavour's 50-foot robot arm like a crane to lift the new station arm from the shuttle payload bay. The new arm had to be double-folded to fit in the payload bay and was still in its launch cradle when Ashby attached it to the space station.
An hour later, Hadfield and Parazynski ventured outside and quickly connected power, data and video cables to the new arm, bringing it to life. Then they removed eight 4-foot-long bolts that secured the arm to its launch cradle. "Unleash the arm," Parazynski said eagerly.
Parazynski positioned himself beneath the arm like a weightlifter to raise it 35 degrees. "Getting ready for the Olympics clean-and-jerk," he announced. He hoisted it, then called out to Hadfield: "Unfold away."
Perched on the end of the shuttle crane for traction, Hadfield unfolded the new station arm while being lifted by crane operator Ashby.
Once the arm was opened, the spacewalkers drilled expandable fasteners into hinges to permanently bolt the pieces together.
They had trouble tightening the fasteners and had to apply extra force.
The arm will be cranked up by the space station crew today and commanded to step off to another location on the laboratory, where it will remain anchored for the next year.