tampabay.com

Shuttle crew hits snag with uncooperative equipment

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published December 14, 2006


CAPE CANAVERAL - After almost 50 start-and-stop commands, dozens of engineering huddles and seven hours of working on the task, NASA has decided to leave a 115-foot solar wing on the international space station halfway retracted.

The space agency had wanted to retract it fully via remote control, but stubborn kinks and slackness in wire tension did not ease up after several attempts.

The work was tedious and difficult, both for the flight controllers on the ground and the astronauts at the space station. Managers compared the challenge to folding up a used road map and stuffing it in the glove compartment.

The electricity-generating solar array served as a temporary power source aboard the orbiting outpost. NASA needed to move it out of the way so that a new, permanent pair of solar wings could rotate in the direction of the sun and generate power for the space station.

The wing was pulled back far enough, though, to allow that rotation to happen, and NASA began rotating the new solar wings shortly before 8 p.m. EST.

NASA managers were meeting to discuss sending space walkers to manually retract the array. That could happen as early as the third planned space walk of this mission, scheduled for Saturday. Managers could also plan a fourth space walk for the space shuttle Discovery crew, or send one of the space station residents out to do the job.

During two space walks today and Saturday, astronauts will rewire connectors from the old solar array to the new solar wings. Reconfiguring the power system will enable the station to provide electricity to laboratories that will be added to the structure over the next few years.