Sunita Williams assembles special space walk tool

By Arun Kumar


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Washington : Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams has assembled a spacewalk tool that may help her two companions in space in retracting a solar array during their two spacewalks May 30 and June 6.

Williams, Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineer Oleg Kotov also prepared for the arrival of space shuttle Atlantis that would take her back to earth after a six month tour of duty. It's targeted to launch on June 8.

Williams Friday completed an additional run of the Elastic Memory Composite Hinge experiment, which studies the performance of a new type of composite hinge to determine if it is suitable for use in space, US space agency NASA said.

The experiment uses elastic memory hinges to move an attached mass at one end. Materials tested in this experiment are stronger and lighter than current material used in space hinges and could be used in the design of future spacecraft.

On Thursday, the crew called its colleagues working at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Aquarius undersea laboratory for the 12th NASA Extreme Environments Mission Operations (NEEMO).

A flight surgeon, two astronauts and a Cincinnati doctor completed their 12-day mission Friday. That crew tested space medicine concepts, robotic telesurgery operations and moon- walking techniques.

With its unique environment, Aquarius is an ideal training facility for future spaceflight. Williams was a member of the second NEEMO mission in May 2002.

Yurchikhin and Kotov practiced digital photography techniques for their role in the inspection of the shuttle's heat shield as it approaches the station.