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Army Astronaut Preps for 3rd Spacewalk to Check Damaged Panel

Oct 31, 2007
BY Elizabeth M. Lorge

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 31, 2007) - Army astronaut Col. Doug Wheelock is preparing for his third spacewalk with mission specialist Scott Parazynski, scheduled for Thursday, as the space shuttle Discovery's crew continues to evaluate a damaged solar array discovered Tuesday.

Although he is far from the Army's usual field of operations, Col. Wheelock said, "it's just like a joint ops on the ground." He made the comment during a news teleconfernce today in which astronauts answered questions from reporters here at NASA headquarters, along with others in Florida, Texas, Paris and Moscow.

"Probably the most important thing I've learned up here is the importance of teamwork," Col. Wheelock said. "It was quite amazing yesterday when Scott and I were working outside and knew everyone was working real hard inside to get their tasks done, as well as dozens of people on the ground in Houston who were helping us come up with solutions to the problem."

The damaged array was part of the Port 6 truss installed during the duo's spacewalk Tuesday and it was designed to help provide power to the International Space Station.

Assisted by a robotic arm, the truss was moved to its permanent position during the spacewalk to enable the Columbus Laboratory from the European Space Agency and a Japanese experiment module laboratory to be attached to the space station during future missions.

The successful installation was quickly overshadowed as the panels unfolded and a tear appeared.

According to Station Commander Peggy Whitson, the angle of the sun made it difficult to see the tear at first, but all panel movement stopped once the crew discovered it.

She seemed concerned whether they could complete the mission, which has already been extended a day, but said if there was a way to do it, they would.

Engineers in Houston are pouring over pictures of the array and Col.Wheelock and Dr. Parazynski are expected to get a good look at the damage during Thursday's spacewalk to learn more about the joint that rotates the starboard side of the arrays.

According to Dr. Parazynski, it could take a series of spacewalks to clean up the debris and repair the damage, if repair is even feasible.

Despite the challenges, which included finding a small hole in his gloves after returning from Tuesday's spacewalk, the mission has been exciting for Col. Wheelock. He said the views were breathtaking, although getting used to moving around in space was challenging because it was hard to relax enough to move freely.

"This is the ultimate high ground," Col. Wheelock said, "so I figure that this is the place for a Soldier to be."

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