Astronauts Complete Fifth Spacewalk

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- Endeavour's astronauts embarked on the fifth and final spacewalk of their mission Saturday, this time attaching a 50-foot inspection pole to the international space station for use by the next shuttle visitors.

Michael Foreman and Robert Behnken floated out the hatch late in the afternoon as the linked shuttle and station soared more than 200 miles above the Pacific. They spacewalked the night away, successfully accomplishing all their work.

"You're the gladiator, Mike," astronaut Richard Linnehan called from inside, playing a five-second sound clip from the 2000 film. "You both are."

The shuttle astronauts used the laser-tipped inspection boom at the beginning of their 16-day mission and again Friday night to check for any damage to their spaceship. It's become a routine safety procedure ever since the 2003 Columbia accident.

Discovery won't have room for a boom when it flies in May; the Japanese Kibo lab is so big it will take up the entire payload bay. So Endeavour's astronauts left theirs behind.

Foreman and Behnken hooked an extra-long power cord to the inspection pole, to keep its lasers and cameras warm for the next two months, then secured the boom to the outside of the space station.

With the boom work quickly completed, the spacewalkers turned to less pressing chores. They inspected a jammed rotating joint that has restricted the use of a set of solar wings for months, and finally succeeded in hanging some scientific experiments to the European lab, Columbus.

Behnken was unable to hook the experiments to Columbus' hull during spacewalk No. 3 earlier in the week because of some sort of interference. He got the connector pins in this time, using a hammer.

As for the jammed rotating solar joint, it's filled with metal shavings because of grinding parts.

NASA has been trying since last fall to figure out what is broken and how best to fix the joint. Spacewalking astronauts inspected the joint several times before and even collected samples of the steel grit for analysis back on Earth. But five covers had yet to be removed, and that's where Foreman focused his efforts. He photographed what appeared to be a pit in the joint.

"You're doing great with that camera, Mike. We're going to hire you to do my cousin's bar mitzvah," astronaut Garrett Reisman radioed from inside.

Saturday night's spacewalk, which lasted six hours, was the last major space station job for Endeavour's crew. The shuttle arrived at the orbiting complex March 12, delivering the first section of the Kibo lab and a Canadian robot with 11-foot arms that is designed to assist future spacewalkers.

Endeavour is scheduled to undock from the space station on Monday night and land back at Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday night. The shuttle will have spent 12 days at the station - the longest shuttle visit ever. It was the most spacewalks ever performed - five - during a joint shuttle-station flight.


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