Cosmonauts' Second Spacewalk Goes Smoothly
Russian cosmonauts Sergei Volkov (in the red-striped spacesuit) and Oleg Kononenko (in the blue-striped spacesuit) venture outside the Pirs docking compartment on a roughly six-hour spacewalk July 15, 2008.
CREDIT: NASA TV
Two Russian spacewalkers installed a docking target and changed out science experiments during their second career spacewalk on Tuesday outside the International Space Station.
The almost six-hour spacewalk began on schedule at 1:08 p.m. EDT (1708 GMT) and allowed space station commander Sergei Volkov and flight engineer Oleg Kononenko to finish their tasks on time despite an added, impromptu fix to a disabled ham radio antenna.
The normal maintenance duties stood in contrast to the first, riskier spacewalk that took place on July 10, which required the cosmonauts to remove an explosive bolt from the Russian Soyuz spacecraft docked to the space station. Both Volkov and Kononenko completed that tricky task as first-time spacewalkers.
Today?s second spacewalk involved duties once slated for the July 10 extravehicular activity, but pushed back due to the ongoing Russian investigation of a malfunction that caused the past two Soyuz spacecraft to subject their crews to bumpy ballistic reentries.
The cosmonauts began the second spacewalk by installing a docking target on the zenith, or space-ward, side of the Russian Zvezda module. That will serve to guide in a new airlock, called the Mini-Research Module 2 (MRM2), which will be delivered to the Russian part of the space station in 2009.
The work required the spacewalkers to lift up flaps and insert an adapter into mounting holes that hold the docking target. Volkov wielded a camera to take pictures of the installation process, but both cosmonauts appeared eager to get on with the spacewalk.
?Ok, we?re not going to waste too much time on that, Oleg [Kononenko],? Volkov said, after taking several pictures.
Kononenko rode on the end of the 50-foot Strela hand-powered crane to take additional photos of the space station, while Volkov maneuvered him using the crane.
Next, the two spacewalkers secured the Vsplesk or ?Burst? experiment, using clamps, wire ties, and support tethers. That physics experiment is designed to measure the effects of high energy particle streams near Earth.
The cosmonauts took a breather to relax and gaze upon ?beautiful? thunderstorms on Earth, before finally receiving word that the ?Burst? experiment had started functioning.
?We have telemetry,? said Russian mission control. ?Vsplesk is alive.?
Volkov was directed to take time out of the schedule to fix a ham radio antenna that had been disabled. The space station commander straightened out the ham antenna and fitted it back into its vertical slot.
?Please let me go home,? Volkov joked. ?I guess we?ve done it all for today??
He and Kononenko then turned to the final task of retrieving the Biorisk experiment?s payload, which was installed by Expedition 15 crew members last summer. That experiment studied the effects of space radiation and zero gravity on microorganisms.
Kononenko moved to the experiment location and removed the Biorisk containers, while Volkov retrieved a foot restraint from where it had been temporarily stowed. That same foot restraint had given Kononenko trouble on the first spacewalk when attached to the Strela hand-powered crane.
The spacewalkers finally reentered the Pirs docking compartment and closed the hatch at 7:02 p.m. EDT (2302 GMT).
Mission controllers conveyed thanks for the completion of the assigned tasks and the impromptu fix of the radio antenna, and remarked upon the July 10 spacewalk as well.
?Even the first attempt was perfect,? Russian mission control told the cosmonauts. ?Everything was done professionally.?
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