The zerogravity exercise bike aboard the space shuttle Discovery is back in gear.
After daysof downtime becauseof jammed pedals, Discovery?s astronauts can now bike their cares awaythanks to the determination of two spaceflyers who pried open the high-techcycle and cleared a wayward strap.
Whilespacewalkers attachednew solar wings to the International Space Station on Thursday, shuttlepilot Tony Antonelli and mission specialist John Phillips repaired Discovery?sstationary exercise bike with some help from engineers at NASA?s Mission Control. The fixcame just in time for Discovery skipper Lee Archambault, an avid bike rider onEarth who was quick to take the shuttle cycle for a spin.
?We knowthe boss likes riding the bicycle so we wanted to make sure he got plenty ofexercise riding on the bike,? Phillips said. ?A happy boss makes the rest of ushappy.?
Astronautsmust exercise daily in order to maintain muscle and bone strength whileflying in the weightlessness of space. Aboard the International Space Station,where Discovery is currently docked, astronauts must work out at least twohours every day to prevent their muscles and bones from weakening too much during longspace missions.
Known bythe hefty moniker of ?cycle ergometer,? Discovery?s exercise bike is one of twopieces of gym equipment for the shuttle?s seven-astronaut crew. The astronautsfound the bike?s pedals jammed fast just after their launch Sunday night andMission Control gave the spaceflyers leave to use a set of exercise bands onthe shuttle, as well as the treadmill, cycle and other gear on theInternational Space Station.
A few dayslater, the station?s treadmill broke down briefly, but was quickly repaired.
?No majorproblems, just a couple of hiccups,? space station flight director KwatsiAlibaruho told reporters late Thursday.
MissionControl lauded the Antonelli and Phillips efforts to bring Discovery?s exercisebike back to life later.
?We?resubmitting both you and John for an honorary degree in ergometry,? MissionControl said.
Discoveryastronauts are currently in the middle of a planned 13-day mission to the spacestation, where they have swapped out one member of the outpost?s long-term crewand installed the last set of solar wings. The shuttle is due to land on March28, but could land a day early in order to preserve science samples returningto Earth from the station.
SPACE.comis providing continuous coverage of STS-119 with reporter Clara Moskowitz and senior editor Tariq Malik in New York. Click here for missionupdates and SPACE.com's live NASA TV video feed.
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