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Astronauts Repair Panels During Spacewalk

Nov 05, 2007
BY Elizabeth M. Lorge

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 5, 2007) - Army astronaut Col. Doug Wheelock and mission specialist Doug Parazynski successfully repaired a torn solar array panel during Saturday's seven-hour, 19-minute spacewalk.

According to NASA, Col. Wheelock and Dr. Parazynski spent about an hour and a half riding the International Space Station's robotic arm to the torn array - about 165 feet down the station's truss and 90 feet up to the damage.

Dr. Parazynski cut a snagged wire from the array and installed homemade stabilizers designed to strengthen and stabilize the structure. Col. Wheelock helped from the truss by keeping an eye on the distance between Dr. Parazynski and the array. The process took about three and a half hours.

Derek Hassman, the lead space-station flight director, said the operation was "one of the most satisfying days that I've ever had in mission control."

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."

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. Saturday's spacewalk was his third and the mission's fourth.

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. Repairing the tear became the focus of the mission and engineers in Houston poured over pictures of the array as the astronauts spent days planning and making tools.

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

The space shuttle Discovery is scheduled to unlock from the space station today and fly around the station to photograph and film the newly-configured station.

According to NASA, the crew has completed all of the major objectives for this mission, including installing the Harmony module 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.

(NASA status reports contributed to this article.)

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