Astronauts Patch Up Space Bicycle
The space shuttle exercise bike, or cycle ergometer, on Discovery is similar to this one used by Endeavour shuttle pilot Eric Boe during a Nov. 2008 spaceflight.
Credit: NASA.

The zero gravity exercise bike aboard the space shuttle Discovery is back in gear.

After days of downtime because of jammed pedals, Discovery?s astronauts can now bike their cares away thanks to the determination of two spaceflyers who pried open the high-tech cycle and cleared a wayward strap.

While spacewalkers attached new solar wings to the International Space Station on Thursday, shuttle pilot Tony Antonelli and mission specialist John Phillips repaired Discovery?s stationary exercise bike with some help from engineers at NASA?s Mission Control. The fix came just in time for Discovery skipper Lee Archambault, an avid bike rider on Earth who was quick to take the shuttle cycle for a spin.

?We know the boss likes riding the bicycle so we wanted to make sure he got plenty of exercise riding on the bike,? Phillips said. ?A happy boss makes the rest of us happy.?

Astronauts must exercise daily in order to maintain muscle and bone strength while flying in the weightlessness of space. Aboard the International Space Station, where Discovery is currently docked, astronauts must work out at least two hours every day to prevent their muscles and bones from weakening too much during long space missions.

Known by the hefty moniker of ?cycle ergometer,? Discovery?s exercise bike is one of two pieces of gym equipment for the shuttle?s seven-astronaut crew. The astronauts found the bike?s pedals jammed fast just after their launch Sunday night and Mission Control gave the spaceflyers leave to use a set of exercise bands on the shuttle, as well as the treadmill, cycle and other gear on the International Space Station.

A few days later, the station?s treadmill broke down briefly, but was quickly repaired.

?No major problems, just a couple of hiccups,? space station flight director Kwatsi Alibaruho told reporters late Thursday.

Mission Control lauded the Antonelli and Phillips efforts to bring Discovery?s exercise bike back to life later.

?We?re submitting both you and John for an honorary degree in ergometry,? Mission Control said.

Discovery astronauts are currently in the middle of a planned 13-day mission to the space station, where they have swapped out one member of the outpost?s long-term crew and installed the last set of solar wings. The shuttle is due to land on March 28, but could land a day early in order to preserve science samples returning to Earth from the station.

SPACE.com is providing continuous coverage of STS-119 with reporter Clara Moskowitz and senior editor Tariq Malik in New York. Click here for mission updates and SPACE.com's live NASA TV video feed.

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