(24hoursnews) Astronauts are gearing up for a tricky solar wing repair at a far end of the International Space Station (ISS) tomorrow.
Crewmembers scrounged around the orbital laboratory yesterday for supplies, crafting "cuff links" with them that will button up two rips in the solar array wing. Today, mission controllers here at Johnson Space Center (JSC) sent astronauts on another scavenger hunt to find tools for repairing the power-generating blanket.
The space station now confronts two major threats to its power supply, both of which arose during the STS-120 mission. In addition to the maimed solar wing, which generates electricity but is structurally unstable, spacewalker Dan Tani discovered unusual metallic grit in solar-array-orienting gears on Oct. 28.
Since the solar array tore during its deployment on Oct. 30, however, mission managers abandoned inspecting the gears and scrambled to make the solar wing fix a top priority.
"We've had at least three or four extra teams running throughout the shifts," said Heather Rarick, ISS flight director, of the efforts to finish detailed plans for tomorrow's spacewalk. "It's just been a fantastic effort."
Astronauts took the changes in stride as well, offering up their sparse free time to outfit the space station's newest room as well as create the solar wing-saving cufflinks. Today, cremembers prepared Parazynski's 90-foot (27.4-meter) ride on an extended robotic arm to the damaged solar wing.
"We know and understand how hard you guys are working down there," spacewalker Doug Wheelock told mission controllers last night. "We're ready to execute."
Wheelock will accompany Parazynski during the fourth and now final spacewalk of the mission. A fifth spacewalk was planned for Sunday, but mission managers cancelled the operation to focus on hashing out plans to repair the 4B solar wing, which is attached to the Port 6 truss section of the space station.
NASA awoke the 10 free-floating astronauts this morning to the song "World" by Five for Fighting. "We're looking forward to another great day working with you and building the space station," Wheelock said as he awoke, dedicating the tune to hard-working crews on the ground.
Discovery and its seven-astronaut crew are slated to leave the orbital laboratory on Nov. 5 and land at Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 7, weather permitting. NASA officials said that the crew has enough supplies to stay docked for the ISS for two more days, should the need arise.