HOUSTON —Two spacewalking astronauts primed the International Space Station?s (ISS) newEuropean lab for orbital science Friday by adding new experiments to its gleaming hull.
Atlantisshuttle astronauts Rex Walheim and Stanley Love attached two science experimentsto platforms on the outboard edge of the European Space Agency?s (ESA) Columbuslab in thefinal spacewalk of their STS-122 mission.
?Nicemodule we have here, huh?? Walheim said of newly arrived Columbus, which thetwo spacewalkers helped install on Monday.
?It is!?Love replied.
Clad inbulky NASA spacesuits, the two astronauts began their orbital work at 8:07 a.m.EST (1307 GMT) as the space station and docked Atlantis flew high above thesouthern Pacific Ocean.
?Oh wow,what a picture,? Love said as he snapped photographs of Walheim while the sundipped behind the Earth?s horizon. ?I?m snapping like mad.?
Friday?sspacewalk ran seven hours and 25 minutesand marked the third excursion of Atlantis?13-day mission to deliver the 1.4 billion euro ($2 billion)Columbus lab and a new crewmember to the ISS. The shuttle is due to land Feb.20.
Walheim andLove attached the ESA?s sun-watching SOLAR experiment the top of Columbus? researchporch, where it will spend two years studying Earth?s nearest star. They added anine-instrument exposure facility to monitor the space environment and test newmaterials to Columbus? second experiment slot.
Theastronauts also retrieved a massive, but broken, space station gyroscope andmanhandled it into Atlantis? cargo bay to be returned to Earth for repair. Thegyroscope, one of four used to maintain the space station's orientation in space withoutfiring Russian thrusters, was replaced last year and awaiting a ride home.
?You guysdid a great job bolting that down,? Atlantis commander Stephen Frick told thespacewalkers.
Exploring ?Love Crater?
Aftercompleting their primary tasks, Walheim and Love took a close look at a ding ona handrail near the space station?s airlock. Love spotted the 2-millimeterdivot during a Monday spacewalk, prompting Mission Control to nickname it the ?LoveCrater.?
Lovephotographed the tiny ding while Walheim prodded it with his spacesuitgloved-finger before using an improvised metal tool wrapped in spare spacesuit materialto determine whether it posed a tear hazard for future spacewalkers.
NASAengineers have been hunting for any sharp edges outside the ISS after findingdamage to spacesuit gloves — ending one spacewalk early last year dueto a small rip in spacewalker?s outer glove layer — since it can pose a serioussafety hazard to astronauts working in the vacuum of space.
Walheim andLove were unable to squeeze in a second extra task to inspect a damaged gear thatrotates the station?s starboard solar wings like a paddlewheel to track thesun.
The largegear has been moved only sparingly since astronauts discovered the damage lastfall, with any major repair slated for late this year. Atlantis carried somespare parts and grease guns that may be used in those repairs, NASA officialssaid.
Friday?sspacewalk was the 104th dedicated to space station construction and the fifthcareer excursion for Walheim, who finished with 36 hours and 23minutes of spacewalking time under his belt.
Thespacewalk marked the second for Love, who is making his first spaceflightaboard Atlantis and concluded the excursion with 15 hours and 23minutes. Altogether, Walheim, Love and German astronaut Hans Schlegel of theESA spent 22 hours and eight minutes working outside the ISSduring their mission?s three spacewalks.
MissionControl roused the astronauts early Friday with the German song by Drafi Deutscher, whosetitle translates to ?Marble, Breaks and Iron Bends? in English, for Schlegeland wished ISS robotic arm operator Leland Melvin a happy 44th birthday duringthe spacewalk.
As theypassed the seven-hour mark, Mission Control told the spacewalkers it was timeto head back in.
?Do we haveto?? Walheim asked.
Love spentthe bulk of the spacewalk perched at the tip of the station?s Canadarm2 roboticarm while crewmates inside the ISS moved him between to and from Atlantis?cargo bay to retrieve the Columbus experiments and stow the broken gyroscope.
?Flying?sbeen wonderful,? he said.
NASA isbroadcasting Atlantis' STS-122 mission live on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com's shuttlemission coverage and NASA TV feed.
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