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Saturday, November 24, 2007

A pair of astronauts went on a spacewalk Saturday to finish wiring up the international space station's

Astronauts Take Spacewalk for Wiring
A pair of astronauts went on a spacewalk Saturday to finish wiring up the international space station's newest room, the last hurdle that must be cleared before the shuttle Atlantis can deliver a new European laboratory.

Commander Peggy Whitson and Daniel Tani need to hook up more electrical and fluid connections linking the space station and the Harmony compartment that was delivered by the shuttle Discovery last month.

That will allow Harmony to serve as a docking port for the European lab, named Columbus, which is scheduled to be delivered in December. A Japanese lab set to be delivered early next year also will dock to the school bus-size module.

Much of Saturday's work involved lugging a second 18 1/2-foot, 300-pound tray holding fluid lines to Harmony and bolting it down. The lines carry ammonia, a coolant. The astronauts moved and installed another fluid tray on Tuesday.

"Don't rush," Whitson told Tani as they struggled to move the bulky tray. They took turns handling the equipment, with one astronaut passing it to the other and then crawling forward for another hand-off.

Later Saturday, Tani plans to inspect a jammed joint that is needed to turn one of the space station's two sets of huge solar wings. The gear has been experiencing electrical current spikes and must be repaired over the coming months to continue station construction.

Tani found steel shavings inside the joint while spacewalking last month during Discovery's visit.

On Saturday, he plans to remove one of the joint's covers so he can take digital pictures and collect samples of any debris. He will leave the cover off so the astronauts can shoot videos of the gear later.

The space station's three residents have been working almost nonstop since Discovery's departure on Nov. 5, and just last week moved Harmony to its permanent location. This is their third spacewalk and the last planned before Atlantis arrives.

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