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Discovery Crew Preps for Spacewalk

Nov 02, 2007
BY Elizabeth M. Lorge

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 2, 2007) - Army astonaut Col. Doug Wheelock and other space shuttle Discovery astronauts spent the day preparing to repair a torn solar array panel during a spacewalk scheduled for Saturday.

Engineers have spent days developing procedures and configurations to fix the tear in the solar panel.

According to NASA, ground controllers will move the station's mobile transporter from the end of the port 6 truss to the truss' center today. Mission Specialist Stephanie Wilson and Flight Engineer Dan Tani will use the station's robotic arm to grapple the Orbiter Boom Sensor System. The boom will be handed to the shuttle robotic arm for the night and the mobile transporter will then return to the end of the port truss.

The boom will be transferred back to the station's arm Saturday to allow Mission Specialist Scott Parazynski to reach the panel, which may have been snagged on a guidewire. Dr. Parazynski will install five solar array hinge stabilizers. Col. Wheelock will assist from the station's truss while Space Station Commander Peggy Whitson and Mission Specialist Clay Anderson install a computer router that will be used once the module is moved to its permanent location at the end of the Destiny laboratory.

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 teleconference Wednesday 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 Ms. 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.

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."
According to NASA, the crew has completed all of the major objectives for this mission, including installing Harmony in a temporary location at the end of the Unity node, relocating the P6 truss, and installing a spare main bus switching unit on a storage platform.

The space shuttle Discovery is still scheduled to return to Earth Nov. 7. The fifth spacewalk that the shuttle crew was scheduled to conduct wil now be performed by the space station crew after the shuttle leaves.

(A NASA status report contributed to this article.)

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