Astronauts Tom Jones and Bob Curbeam completed their third and final planned spacewalk outside the International Space Station today, pausing to celebrate the mission, which included the 100th spacewalk in United States space history.
“This achievement, this golden anniversary so to speak, is a tribute to all the people who have done spacewalks, all the people who designed the Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and now Shuttle suits,” Curbeam said as he and Jones held a placard commemorating the spacewalks in Atlantis’ payload bay. “And we salute all of you and appreciate your hard work and thank you so much.”
The two astronauts exited Atlantis’ airlock at 8:48 a.m. Central. During five hours and 25 minutes outside, they attached a spare communications antenna to the International Space Station’s exterior; double-checked connections between the Destiny lab and its docking port; released a cooling radiator on the station; inspected solar array connections at the top of the station; and tested the ability of a spacewalker to carry an immobile crew member back to the shuttle airlock. The spacewalk work all went smoothly, and the two reentered Atlantis at 2:13 p.m. Central.
Three hours later, at 5:14 p.m. Central, the shuttle and station crews reopened hatches between the two spacecraft, beginning about 36 hours of side-by-side activities. The two crews will say a final farewell and close the hatches just after 6 a.m. Central on Friday in preparation for Atlantis’ undocking later that morning.
Tomorrow’s plans include the continued transfer of supplies and equipment from Atlantis to the station. A total of more than 800 pounds of shuttle-delivered supplies and gear will have been transferred to the station by the time Atlantis departs. Commander Ken Cockrell also is planned to again set Atlantis’ thrusters to fire for a fourth and final gradual boost of the station’s altitude. The shuttle will leave the station about 16 miles higher than when Atlantis arrived.
Cockrell, Jones and Curbeam will take a break from their work at 7:49 a.m. Central Thursday to talk with Baltimore elementary and middle school students at the Maryland Science Center. Later, the entire shuttle and station crews will field questions from news media in the U.S. and Russia during a 40-minute press conference starting at 12:37 p.m. Central.
The shuttle and station crews will go to sleep at 8:13 p.m. Central today. The shuttle crew will awaken at 4:13 a.m. Central Thursday and the station crew will awaken a half-hour later. The Johnson Space Center newsroom will close at 9 p.m. today and reopen at 4 a.m. Thursday. The next Mission Control Center status report will be issued at 5 a.m. Thursday.
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