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Archive for Thursday, February 15, 2001

Shuttle crew finishes spacewalks

February 15, 2001

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— Two astronauts ventured outside Wednesday on America's 100th spacewalk, wrapping up work on the international space station's new science laboratory and taking turns playing dead.

The space shuttle Atlantis spacewalkers, Thomas Jones and Robert Curbeam Jr., conducted NASA's "dead-guy test," an emergency drill for dragging an incapacitated astronaut to safety.


It was their third and final spacewalk of the mission, and the 100th time that Americans walked in space. Gemini astronaut Edward White II made NASA's first spacewalk in 1965. His excursion lasted 21 minutes. Wednesday's outing was 5 1/2 hours long.

Before going back inside, Jones and Curbeam paid tribute to White who died in a launch pad fire in 1967 and all the other Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and shuttle astronauts who performed spacewalks over the decades. Moonwalks are included in the tally.

"And here we are now," Jones said. "We think in the years to come in the very near future, we'll see not only the construction of the space station completed, but spacewalkers will take their place not only in low-Earth orbit, but back on the moon and back on the asteroids and perhaps even to Mars."

Jones and Curbeam hooked up a spare radio antenna on the space station, unlatched a radiator, checked a leaky fluid line and photographed loose pins on the base of the station's giant solar wings.

The mood lightened toward the end of the spacewalk, as the astronauts took turns hauling each other into the outer vestibule of the shuttle.

Curbeam was the first to be rescued. His goal was to be as motionless as possible. But he was free to keep on talking with his partner. It took the 5-foot-8, 163-pound Jones several minutes to stuff the 6-foot, 210-pound Curbeam into the shuttle airlock.

Twenty-two spacewalks are planned this year the most by American astronauts in a single year. An astounding 43 spacewalks will be required in 2003, at least theoretically, Harbaugh said.

Atlantis undocks Friday from the space station and returns to Earth on Sunday.

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