Spacewalkers Add Tool Kit, Cameras to Station's New Robot
Endeavour astronaut Robert Behnken works on the maintenance robot Dextre at the ISS during a March 17, 2008 spacewalk high above Earth, the third of NASA's STS-123 mission.
CREDIT: NASA TV.
This story was updated at 4:13 a.m. EDT.
HOUSTON - Two spacewalking astronauts added a tool kit and camera eyes to the International Space Station?s (ISS) new mechanical handyman late Monday, priming the two-armed robot for its big move to orbiting laboratory?s hull.
Endeavour shuttle astronauts Rick Linnehan and Robert Behnken attached the new tools to Dextre, a massive Canadian-built robot designed to replace flesh-and-blood spacewalkers on more routine maintenance work outside the ISS.
?Happy St. Patrick?s Day guys and have a great EVA,? said astronaut Mike Foreman, using NASA?s term for a spacewalk as he choreographed the excursion from inside Endeavour.
?I forgot it was St. Paddy?s day,? said Linnehan. ?We should have worn our green [spacesuits].?
Monday night?s spacewalk began at 6:51 p.m. EDT (2251 GMT) and ran six hours and 53 minutes in duration. The outing marked the sixth career excursion for Linnehan and the first for Behnken, who will also participate in two more spacewalks later this week.
?Go get ?em Bam Bam,? Linnehan said, using a nickname for Behnken. ?You?ve got an appointment with Mr. Dextre.?
Linnehan and Behnken outfitted Dextre with a three-tool kit designed to allow the $209-million robot to release latches and locks, remove bolts and grasp broken station batteries and other hardware outside the ISS. They also gave the 12-foot (3.7-meter) tall robot a set of camera eyes and lights, as well as a 6-foot (almost 2-meter) long boom to hold spare parts and tools during trips to and from work sites.
The spacewalk marked the third in a series to complete the 3,440-pound (1,560-kilogram) robot?s construction after astronauts attached its hand-like grippers and 11-foot (3.4-meter) arms in two earlier excursions. Built by the Canadian Space Agency, the Dextre launched to the ISS in nine separate pieces attached to a cargo pallet in Endeavour?s cargo bay. The fully assembled automaton is due to be moved to the exterior of the station?s U.S. Destiny laboratory late Tuesday.
In addition to their Dextre work, Linnehan and Behnken delivered spare parts for the station?s Canadarm2 robotic arm and electrical power grid to an exterior storage platform. But a stubborn materials exposure experiment resisted repeated attempts by Behnken to secure it in place outside the space station?s European-built Columbus lab.
Zebulon Scoville, lead spacewalk officer for Endeavour?s flight, said the experiment?s anchoring pins appeared to be too fat for their allotted slots.
Engineers are studying potential fixes for the suitcase-sized experiment, which may include simply tying it down with tethers during one of the next two spacewalks, scheduled for Thursday and Saturday, respectively. Aside from the balky pins, the spacewalk went extremely well, mission managers said.
?This really was the kind of spacewalk that, when it?s all done, you just want to put your hands up in the air and howl at the moon,? Scoville said. ?It really was a great day for us.?
While the two spacewalkers toiled outside the ISS, their crewmates inside the station were hard at work in the station?s new Japanese Logistics Pressurized module. Endeavour astronauts delivered the small, attic-like room - the first piece of Japan?s massive Kibo laboratory - last week.
?Tell Takao his module looks beautiful,? said Behnken, referring to Japanese astronaut Takao Doi in charge of outfitting the new module.
?Don?t make too much noise,? Foreman added. ?Takao?s working hard in there.?
By the end of Monday?s overnight excursion, Behnken racked up six hours and 53 minutes of spacewalking time as he makes his first spaceflight. Linnehan, now on his fourth spaceflight, ended with a grand total of 42 hours and 24 minutes of spacewalking time across four spaceflights. Linnehan, who performed three of his six spacewalks during Endeavour?s current STS-123 mission, now ranks 11th on the list of the world?s most experienced spacewalkers.
By coincidence, the spacewalkers ended their orbital work on the 43rd anniversary of the first spacewalk in history; a 12-minute excursion by cosmonaut Alexei Leonov on March 18, 1965.
?I think I just maybe saw the Southern Cross, and definitely a satellite flying over,? said Linnehan as he gazed out into space from the tip of the station's robot arm. ?Two satellites, three satellites, wow.?
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.
- NEW VIDEO: Space Station's Dextre Robot, AKA 'Gigantor'
- NEW GALLERY: Launch Day for Shuttle Endeavour
- NEW VIDEO: Japan's First Space Station Module
MORE FROM SPACE.com