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Hurricane shortens Endeavour mission

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Aug 18, 2007
Endeavour astronauts sped up a final spacewalk Saturday, as NASA announced it would bring them back one day early, on Tuesday, to avoid disruption to ground operations from hurricane Dean.

The shuttle will undock from the International Space Station (ISS) early Sunday morning -- around 1200 GMT -- ahead of a landing Tuesday, mission spokesman LeRoy Cain told a news conference.

The early return was planned "in the event Hurricane Dean threatens the Houston area," in the southern state of Texas, where NASA's mission control base at Johnson Space Center is located, the agency said in a statement.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said that bringing the Endeavour back on Tuesday would allow mission control to "shut down to prepare for a storm."

Dean was heading for Jamaica and Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, packing 240 kilometer (150 miles) per hour winds.

Characterized by the Miami-based National Hurricane Center as an "extremely dangerous hurricane," Dean by Wednesday could make landfall in southern Texas.

Mission Specialist Dave Williams and Flight Engineer Clay Anderson began their spacewalk, the fourth of the Endeavour mission, an hour early and shortened it to five hours, ending at 1819 GMT, NASA said.

The shortened spacewalk allowed the closing of the International Space Station and shuttle hatches by the end of the day, NASA said, as preparations for the Endeavour's undocking from the ISS got underway.

The astronauts installed a stand for the shuttle's robotic arm extension boom on the ISS truss structure and an instrumentation system antenna. They also retrieved two containers used for experiments.

US space officials are concerned that if hurricane Dean veers toward the Texas coast, it could affect mission control's management of the Endeavour's planned landing in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The shuttle had been scheduled to land back on Earth on Wednesday after its mission to install equipment on the orbiting laboratory.

Endeavour was launched from Cape Canaveral on August 9 with seven astronauts, including 55-year-old teacher-turned-astronaut Barbara Morgan, on a mission to continue construction of the ISS.

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Crew Holds Class In Space, Prepares For Possible Repair Work
Houston TX (SPX) Aug 16, 2007
The STS-118 and Expedition 15 crews are preparing for a possible spacewalk to repair damage on Space Shuttle Endeavour's thermal protection system. During the first half of the day, the crew held class in space for students on Earth. Mission managers have not decided that a repair spacewalk will be needed. But to prepare for that possibility, the crew members are getting ready to do the repair, should managers determine that is necessary.

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