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Astronauts begin first spacewalk of Endeavour mission

Mission Specialist Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper works on the starboard solar alpha rotary joint during the first spacewalk of the STS-126 mission. Photo credit: NASA TV
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Nov 18, 2008
Two astronauts from NASA's space shuttle Endeavour stepped outside the International Space Station Tuesday on the first of four planned spacewalks of the 15-day mission.

Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper and Steve Bowen emerged from station's decompression chamber, where they had spent the night to purge nitrogen from their bodies, at 1809 GMT, to begin a planned 6.5 hour spacewalk, NASA television showed.

The spacewalkers will stow new equipment ferried into space by Endeavour onto the ISS, and remove old equipment destined for return to Earth in the shuttle's cargo hold.

They will also begin servicing the rotation system -- the solar alpha rotary joint -- of one of three power-generating solar arrays defective for more than a year, NASA said. The large joints allow the apparatus to rotate and track the sun.

"We have some cleaning and greasing to do, to see if we can get it to work a bit smoother," Bowen said Monday about the lube job he and Stefanyshyn-Piper will perform on the first spacewalk.

The five other Endeavour astronauts and the three ISS crewmembers on Monday used the station's robotic arm to remove the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module from the shuttle's hold and attach it to the ISS.

They can now begin unloading the 14.5 tonnes of equipment it carried, most of it to be used to upgrade the interior of the orbiting outpost to double its crew capacity from three to six astronauts next year.

The additions will include two new sleeping quarters, exercise equipment, a second toilet, two new ovens to heat food, a refrigerator for food and drinks, a freezer and an oven for scientific experiments.

As one NASA expert described it, the upgrades will effectively turn the ISS into "a five-bedroom two-bath house with a kitchen, and support six residents on a continuing basis."

The astronauts also will be installing a system that can turn urine back into drinking water. The 250-million-dollar upgrade will allow enough recycling for a six-person ISS crew to sharply reduce the amount of water that has to be flown up from Earth.

The expansion of the ISS will create the space to conduct more research into micro-gravity, a key to future space exploration, and also enable Japanese and European astronauts to spend long periods of time at the space station.

Japan and Europe now have their own laboratories at the Space Station, Kibo and Columbus, delivered by the shuttle in 2008.

Tuesday marks the 10th anniversary of the ISS, a multi-billion-dollar collaborative effort between the space agencies of Canada, Europe, Japan, Russia and the United States.

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Nations Around The World Mark 10th Anniversary Of ISS
Houston TX (SPX) Nov 18, 2008
Nations around the world will join together to mark a milestone in space exploration this week, celebrating the 10th birthday of a unique research laboratory, the International Space Station.

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