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Archive for Friday, February 23, 2007

U.S., Russian astronauts fix faulty antenna in spacewalk

February 23, 2007

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In this image from NASA Television, Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria, left, and Russian flight engineer Mikhail Tyurin work during a spacewalk Thursday on the international space station.

In this image from NASA Television, Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria, left, and Russian flight engineer Mikhail Tyurin work during a spacewalk Thursday on the international space station.

— A U.S. astronaut and his Russian crewmate took their tools and stepped outside the international space station for an orbital repair job Thursday, fighting an overheated spacesuit with a fogged-up helmet to fix a faulty antenna.

When a hammer didn't do the trick, cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin cut a metal lock holding the antenna in place with a tool resembling garden shears - breathing heavily in the heat of a suit plagued by temperature control problems through much of the six-hour, 13-minute spacewalk.

Tyurin and American astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria were dispatched to free the stuck antenna on a Russian Progress cargo ship, to keep it from snagging when the vessel undocks from the station. The Progress must be jettisoned from the station before a Soyuz spacecraft can deliver a new crew in early April.

Not long after Tyurin and Lopez-Alegria left the station, Mission Control told the Russian that his suit's temperature control system wasn't working at full capacity - and that he would have to go back inside if it became much worse.

"Please pay attention to your condition while you work. If you feel it's too hot, then take a break," Mission Control said.

Replied Tyurin: "One who knows something about life is never in a hurry."

When they reached the offending antenna - crawling painstakingly from railing to railing over the station's white surface - Mission Control told Tyurin to reach for his hammer.

"I'm not seeing it," he said. "Because of this temperature problem, my glass has fogged all over."

Lopez-Alegria tried to free the antenna with a few blows from a small hammer, but the lock did not give. The two quickly switched to the metal-cutting device, saying they wanted to save time.

Mission Control suggested Lopez-Alegria do the work because of Tyurin's suit trouble, but the Russian said he was in a better position, with both hands free.

He set out to cut the lock that held the antenna in place, his breath coming fast and his helmet's glass visor sometimes clouding with vapor.

At Mission Control's suggestion, Tyurin wiped off his visor by rubbing his nose against the glass. The problem eased, he said, when he was not exerting himself.

"When I move a bit less, it dries up a little," he said.

Tyurin was alternately philosophical and mildly impatient during lengthy exchanges with officials at Mission Control in Korolyov, northeast of Moscow. He suggested a few times that the work might be quicker without so many instructions.

"Are we going to cut or are we going to talk?" he said at one point.

Had they failed to fold the antenna, they would have had to cut it off, Mission Control spokesman Valery Lyndin said.

Alexander Polishchuk of Mission Control said that the temperature in Tyurin's suit rose by as much as 3.5 degrees above the desired range of 64.4 to 68.

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