Astronauts Install Japanese Room, Assemble Robot in Space
The Japanese Logistics Pressurized module firmly attached to the International Space Station's Harmony node. Spacewalkers worked with robotic arm operators to install the module March 14, 2008, completing the space station's 15-nation partnership on orbit.
Credit: NASA TV

This story was updated at 11:59 a.m. ET.

HOUSTON ? Two spacewalking astronauts worked through the night high above the Earth to install Japan's first orbital room and attach hands to a two-armed robot named Dextre.

International Space Station (ISS) flight engineer Garrett Reisman and mission specialist Rick Linnehan, a member of the STS-123 space shuttle Endeavour crew, spent more than seven hours outside of the space station to complete their on-orbit construction work. With astronaut Takao Doi at the controls of the shuttle's robotic arm, their efforts left the Japanese Logistics Pressurized module (JLP) securely latched onto the station.

"Takao shows once again that he is the man," said Dominic Gorie, commander of the STS-123 mission, who assisted Doi from Endeavour's flight deck. Doi, a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut, is slated to open up the station's newest room Friday evening and complete the space station program's 15-nation partnership on orbit.

Gorie and his crew are slated to perform at least four more spacewalks during the longest station-bound shuttle mission NASA has ever attempted. In addition to Doi, Gorie worked with shuttle mission specialists Bob Behnken and Leopold Eyharts to support the spacewalker's efforts.

Linnehan and Reisman's spacewalk started Thursday at 9:18 p.m. EDT (0118 GMT March 14) and wrapped up Friday morning at 4:19 a.m. EDT (0819 GMT). The excursion was Reisman's first and Linnehan's fourth, giving the veteran spaceflyer 28 hours 22 minutes of total spacewalking time.

New orbital room

Shortly after Linnehan and Reisman left the station's Quest airlock Thursday night, they crawled across the ISS toward Endeavour's payload bay.

The spacewalking duo unplugged cables and removed protective covers from the 9.2-ton module ? the first piece of Japan's Kibo massive three-part laboratory ? making quick work of readying the cylindrical closet, as Reisman has called it, for installation. As the spacewalkers finished configuring the room, they witnessed an orbital sunrise.

"Good work guys, sun's coming up," Mike Foreman, spacewalk choreographer and STS-123 mission specialist, told his colleagues as the sun crept over the Earth. "Check your visors."

Doi and Gorie then grappled the JLP with Endeavour's robotic arm, twisting and turning the module into place several hours later to the top of the Harmony node Friday at 4:06 a.m. EDT (0706 GMT).

"Grapple confirmed," mission controllers here at Johnson Space Center said as Behnken and Eyharts secured the JLP into place.

Helping hands

Leaving the Japanese module in shape for installation, Linnehan and Reisman moved to the pallet containing the pieces of Dextre on the Port-1 truss of the space station.

The two astronauts unwrapped the 115-pound (52-kilogram) "hands" of the robot, known as orbital tool changeout mechanisms, and worked during the next four hours to bolt them onto the automaton's 662-pound (300-kilogram) arms.

In a briefing after the spacewalk, mission managers here at Johnson Space Center said a problem with supplying power to Dextre's pallet is likely caused by a faulty "keep alive" cable that warms vital electronics. Pierre Jean, acting program manager for the Canadian space station program, said grappling the robot's "head" with the space station robotic arm Friday evening should give it power and prove his team's hypothesis.

"We're pretty confident that 10 o'clock tonight we should have the answer to this particular [problem]," Jean said.

During their orbital work, Linnehan and Reisman pointed out spectacular views of Earth below ? atolls in the Indian Ocean, Madagascar, and Chicago's night lights included.

"Don't look down, but over you're left shoulder is New York," Reisman told Linnehan as they attached Dextre's hands. "You can make out Long Island sound, and you can see the whole thing at night. It's amazing."

After the astronauts finished their work and secured themselves in the safety of the airlock, spacecraft communicator Nick Patrick congratulated Doi and "Dom" Gorie on their robotic arm work.

"Great job to all of you on the flight deck today," Patrick said.

"Thank you very much Nick," Doi responded. "Dom and I had a great time."

Shuttle Endeavour launched from Kennedy Space Center early Tuesday morning and docked at the space station Wednesday night. Mission managers expect to see the 100-ton orbiter and its seven-astronaut crew on the ground March 26 around 8:33 p.m. EDT (0013 GMT March 27).

NASA is broadcasting Endeavour's STS-123 mission live on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com's shuttle mission coverage and NASA TV feed.