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Space Station’s Robotic Arm Grapples ISS Under Remote Control

Remote Access: Canadarm 2 Gets a Hand From Ground Control
An artist's concept of the Canadarm2 system - Mobile Base System, Canadarm2, and SPDM (not completed). (Image credit: Canadian Space Agency)

The International SpaceStation (ISS)'s robotic arm successfully grappled onto a fixture on theoutpost's exterior with no direction from the two astronauts currently onboard.

Instead, robotics officer Sarmad Aziz guided the station's Canadarm 2 through the tricky task - which occurred at 6:20a.m. EDT (1020 GMT) - remotely from ISS mission control at Johnson Space Center(JSC) in Houston, Texas, NASA officials said.

Robotics officer Ian Millsthen took over for the unlatching maneuver, which Expedition 11 flight engineerJohn Phillips will observe from aboard the ISS, they added.

Controlling the spacestation's robot arm remotely has been a goal for flight controllers in order toallow ISS crews more free time to pursue science and other work aboard outpost.By proving the arm can be operated from the ground during intricate maneuvers,station controllers hope it might aid astronauts during future spacewalks whenthe ISS is left void of human crew.

ISS crews have been reducedto two people, down from a nominal three-person contingent, since the groundingof NASA's space shuttle fleet after the Columbia accident.

The last three spacestation crews, Expeditions 8 through 10, have left the ISS empty of humanoperators during their spacewalks. Phillips and Expedition 11 commander Sergei Krikalev are due toconduct two spacewalks during their own mission.

Today's successful grappletest follows a previous test in February, during which ground controllers wavedthe arm's free end around in five-foot increments while keeping it a safedistance from ISS hardware.

         Remote Access: Canadarm 2Gets a Hand From Ground Control

Tariq Malik

SPACE.COM EDITOR IN CHIEF — Tariq joined the team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. He became's Managing Editor in 2009. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Google+, Twitter and on Facebook.

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