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Astronauts' space walk gets off to slow start

Published June 12, 2007


HOUSTON - Two astronauts floated outside the international space station Monday to begin connecting the orbiting outpost's newest addition: a 35, 000-pound segment that will increase its power capability.

The start of the space walk was delayed by more than an hour because the four spinning gyroscopes that keep the space station properly positioned became overloaded. Space shuttle Atlantis was used to help control the station's orientation until the gyroscopes were able to take over again.

This pushed back efforts by astronauts on the space station to place the new segment with the station's robotic arm. The new segment needed to be securely attached before the spacewalkers could begin making power and data connections.

Astronauts James Reilly, on his fourth space walk, and Danny Olivas, on his first, began their space walk at 4:02 p.m. as the space station flew 208 miles over the southern Pacific Ocean.

"Danny and J.R., have a great" space walk, Mission Control told the astronauts.

"Thank you. See you in a few hours, " Olivas responded.

During their scheduled 6 1/2-hour space walk, Reilly and Olivas also planned to remove locks and restraints on the truss segment, which was attached earlier Monday to the station's girder-like backbone.

The spacewalkers will remove the restraints so solar arrays inside the segment can be deployed the next day. The new solar arrays will add about 14 kilowatts of power-generating capability to the station.

As the spacewalkers make the various power and data connections, Mission Control will begin activating the truss segment.

Installation and activation of the new segment won't be completed until a second space walk on Wednesday.

Back on Earth, engineers in Houston were evaluating whether a peeled-back thermal blanket on Atlantis should be fixed by astronauts. The loosened blanket, covering a 4-by-6-inch area over a pod for engines, was discovered on Saturday.

If NASA decides to fix the problem, it could be done during one of three scheduled space walks or during an extra, unplanned one.

[Last modified June 12, 2007, 02:07:28]

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