Monday, June 11, 2007

Astronauts' Spacewalk Is Delayed

By Princessa

Nasa says a spacewalk by astronauts aboard the US space shuttle Atlantis will go ahead despite a late snag.
The astronauts are to attach new power-generating equipment onto the International Space Station (ISS).

But the operation was delayed when four gyroscopes that keep the ISS steady became overloaded.

Atlantis docked with the space station on Sunday after performing a back flip so damaged insulation on its underside could be photographed.

The shuttle's thermal blanket was torn during take-off on Friday.

Nasa engineers on the ground will examine the pictures to see if the astronauts need to repair the damage.

Damage to the shuttle Columbia in 2003 during its launch led to the vehicle's disintegration as it returned to Earth, killing all seven crew.

Freak storm

A decision on whether to conduct another spacewalk to fix the damaged blanket will be made in the next day or two, Nasa said.

A 10cm (four inch) section of the thermal blanket became peeled back as the shuttle blasted off on Friday.

The US space agency said it does not consider the damage to Atlantis to be significant. A spokesman said: "We do not see any cause for concern right now."

The seven astronauts aboard Atlantis are adding a new 16-tonne (35,000lb) segment to the ISS containing a pair of new solar panels.

The panels will increase the station's power generation capacity, paving the way for Europe's Columbus module to join the station later this year.

This was supposed to be the second shuttle mission this year, but a freak storm over the Florida launch site in late February caused hail damage to the shuttle and delayed the mid-March flight.

Monday's spacewalk was set back by the gyroscope problem, but Nasa said it would only be a minor delay.

Two more spacewalks, on Wednesday and Friday, are planned to finish installing the new solar panels.

Despite the delays, managers are confident they will be able to complete the ISS before the shuttles' 2010 retirement date.

Nasa plans to fly 15 more missions to the station to deliver large components, spare parts and other supplies. In addition, one final servicing call to the Hubble Space Telescope is planned for September 2008.

No comments: