Astronauts at space station kick off first of five spacewalks

By Xinhua

Washington : Two astronauts at the International Space Station kicked off the first of a series of spacewalks to assemble new components for the orbital outpost, NASA TV reported Thursday.

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The U.S. space shuttle Endeavour’s crew member Rick Linnehan and Expedition 16 Flight Engineer Garrett Reisman stepped out of the station at 9:18 p.m. EDT on Thursday (0118 GMT on Friday). The excursion will last for about six hours and a half.

Their primary goal is to prepare the first component of Japan’s new orbital laboratory Kibo to be installed outside of the station early Friday morning. They will move the component from the shuttle’s payload bay to its place on the station.

In addition, the duo will begin the assembling work for the Canadian-built robot Dextre.

Early on Wednesday, a power glitch popped up, preventing power from being routed to the Dextre system. However, NASA mission control center on the ground decided to press ahead the first spacewalk.

LeRoy Cain, chair of NASA’s mission management team, said during an afternoon briefing that the power-providing issue with the robot will have no significant impact to spacewalk.

“This is a problem we don’t need a solution for right this houror this day,” Cain said, noting that heaters that are supposed to keep Dextre warm outside of the space station can remain unpowered for several days without consequence.

The software used to regulate power to a pallet containing Dextre might be to blame, according to Cain. A new version of the software with the patch to fix the problem is anticipated to be beamed up to the station within 24 hours, he said.