The astronauts aboard Atlantis breezed through the second spacewalk of their mission today and attached a docking port to the end of the International Space Station's new Destiny Laboratory, completing all the spacewalk's planned tasks and more.
Astronauts Tom Jones and Bob Curbeam exited Atlantis' airlock at 9:40 a.m. Central to begin the work outside, turning their first attention to moving the docking port. Inside the shuttle, Marsha Ivins operated Atlantis' robotic arm, latching on to the docking port and, with visual cues provided by Jones and Curbeam, removing it from a location on the station truss where it had been temporarily stowed on Saturday. Jones and Curbeam then relocated themselves to the end of the Destiny Lab, where they again provided visual cues as Ivins moved the port into its new position. The port was then latched in place, and ground controllers will send further commands tonight to finish tightening bolts that will secure it to the lab. Called Pressurized Mating Adapter 2, it will become the primary docking port for future shuttle visits.
The two spacewalkers then moved rapidly through a variety of tasks, including the installation of insulating covers over the pins that had held Destiny in place during launch; attaching a vent to part of the lab's air system; putting wires, handrails and sockets on the exterior of Destiny as aids for future spacewalkers; and attaching a base for the future space station robotic arm, scheduled for launch on an April shuttle flight. With all of the tasks planned for today's spacewalk completed, and still time available, the astronauts then moved to tasks that had originally been planned for the third spacewalk of the flight. Ahead of schedule, they connected several computer and electrical cables between the docking port and the lab; unveiled the lab's large, high-quality window and attached an exterior shutter; and repositioned a movable foot platform they had taken inside Atlantis on the first spacewalk for a slight adjustment.
Jones and Curbeam climbed back into the shuttle airlock and ended the spacewalk at 4:49 p.m. Central, giving the outside work a total duration of 6 hours, 50 minutes. The spacewalk was the 99th time in history that U.S. astronauts had ventured outside of a spacecraft, and the 59th spacewalk from a Space Shuttle.
While the spacewalk was under way, space station ground controllers sent commands to begin spinning and testing four large station gyroscopes attached to the station truss that are operated by electronics inside the Destiny Lab. The gyroscopes are working well, and testing will continue until early Tuesday morning. Later Tuesday, they are planned to take over control of the station's orientation from the spacecraft's jet thrusters, conserving precious fuel aboard the station. The Control Moment Gyroscopes, spinning at 6,600 revolutions per minute, are planned to be the primary method for controlling the station's orientation.
On Tuesday, the hatches will remain closed between the shuttle and station to conserve shuttle air. The shuttle crew will have the morning off-duty, a break from the busy pace of the mission thus far, and, in the afternoon, they will focus on preparations for the third and final spacewalk planned on Wednesday. Also tomorrow, the shuttle will perform another gradual altitude boost of itself and the station.
The shuttle and station crews will go to sleep at 8:13 p.m. Central. The shuttle crew will awaken at 4:13 a.m. and the station crew will awaken at 4:43 a.m. The Johnson Space Center newsroom will close at 9 p.m. today and reopen at 4 a.m. Tuesday. The next Mission Status Report will be issued at 5 a.m. Tuesday.
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