Tue, Jun 10, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Astronauts put finishing touches on Japanese lab

AFP , WASHINGTON

Astronauts from the Discovery shuttle completed the third spacewalk of the mission on Sunday, putting more finishing touches to Japan’s Kibo science lab and replacing an empty nitrogen tank.

In another trouble-free day of the mission, Ron Garan and Mike Fossum checked off a list of maintenance tasks large and small over six hours, 33 minutes outside the orbiting space station, heading back inside at 8:28pm GMT.

In the most dramatic moment of the walk, Garan — his feet locked into the end of the ISS’ massive Canadarm robotic arm like a puppet at the end of a rod — was slowly swept from one side of the ISS to the other, carrying a 239kg depleted nitrogen tank in his arms.

“Light as a feather, huh?” Garan said as the arm, manipulated from inside the ISS by NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, began moving him through the dark of space.

“Enjoy the ride,” Nyberg said.

“That looked like fun,” she added after the traverse was over.

Besides replacing the nitrogen tank with a full one, the two astronauts removed a thermal cover from Kibo’s robotic arm, brought up from Earth on the shuttle and installed earlier this week. They also tested cameras anchored outside the Kibo lab.

ISS Flight Director Annette Hasbrook said at a press briefing after the spacewalk that one of the planned activities for yesterday was a trial run of Kibo’s robotic arm.

“This will be the first large motion of the arm, so we’ll just be watching to make sure that it’s performing as expected and it’s staying within the guidelines and constraints that the Japanese have laid out for the deploy,” she said.

It was the third and final spacewalk of the planned 14-day mission, begun when Discovery launched from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on May 31.

The principal job of the mission has been to deliver and install the Kibo lab’s huge central pressurized module, along with its robotic arm.

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