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Space-walking astronauts rewire space station

Published December 15, 2006


CAPE CANAVERAL - Two space-walking astronauts successfully rewired half of the international space station on Thursday, a job that when finished will allow the orbiting outpost to double the size of its crew and add two more labs in the coming years.

Flight controllers on the ground happily reported to the space station that power was flowing through two electrical channels hooked up by astronauts Robert Curbeam and Christer Fuglesang.

"Excellent. Excellent," said astronaut William Oefelein, who was coordinating the space walk from inside the orbiting outpost, which has a crew of three.

NASA immediately started powering up systems aboard a large section of the space station; the power had to be turned off for the spacewalkers' safety while they were handling the electrical connections.

The space agency also rushed to get the space station's ammonia cooling system operating again before the new electrical equipment overheated. It took less than an hour for the cooling system to start running smoothly.

It was the second space walk for Curbeam and Fuglesang since space shuttle Discovery arrived at the space lab for a seven-day visit. The space walk was scheduled to last six hours; the astronauts had some other housekeeping tasks to perform.

The rewiring job involved switching the space station from its old, temporary power source to its brand-new one - a pair of solar arrays that were delivered in September. The space walkers had to unhook three dozen electrical hoses and reconnect them.

The spacewalk required careful choreography. The plan called for Fuglesang to work in an area called "the rat's nest" because it is a tight corner jammed with power hoses.

During a break, the space walkers watched shooting stars and the blaze of the aurora borealis or Northern Lights phenomenon, which is caused by solar flares colliding with Earth's atmosphere.

Before the start of the space walk, NASA flight controllers on the ground powered down sections of the station, losing some of the redundancy the space agency likes to have in its systems.

A third space walk set for Saturday will repeat the rewiring job, but on the flip side of the station's U.S. segment.




[Last modified December 15, 2006, 01:10:35]

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