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Monday, February 11, 2008

Astronauts Ready For Spacewalk After Health Issues

International Space Station astronauts were quite busy on Sunday getting ready for the first spacewalk since the arrival of the NASA space shuttle Atlantis, which brought with it the European Space Agency module Columbus. The spacewalk had to be delayed due to health issues with German astronaut Hans Schlegel.

Schlegel has been replaced by Stanley Love.

Love and Rex Walheim will perform tasks to get the International Space Statioin and the European Space Agency’s Columbus laboratory ready for installation.

They will have to install the Power Data Grapple Fixture on Columbus, as well as other tasks.

Schlegel and Pilot Alan Poindexter will coordinate the spacewalk from inside the orbiting complex according to NASA.

The European Sapce Agency stated that the current health condition of Schlegel is “not life or mission threatening in any way, but that could affect his efficiency during a spacewalk.”

It is possible that Schlegel will rejoin Rex Walheim for a second spacewalk. NASA has not given any further information though on the matter.


Shuttle Atlantis docks with space station

U.S. space shuttle Atlantis docked with the International Space Station more than 200 miles

above Earth on Saturday on a mission to deliver Columbus, a $1.9 billion European laboratory.

Columbus, launched aboard Atlantis on Thursday from Florida, was to be lifted by robot arm from the shuttle's payload bay on Sunday and attached to the station, giving Europe its first permanent research facility in space.

Astronauts set for ISS spacewalk

Astronauts aboard the space shuttle Atlantis are preparing for the mission's first spacewalk.
The spacewalk was originally scheduled for Sunday, but had to be delayed by 24 hours after European crew member Hans Schlegel was taken ill.

Mr Schlegel was supposed to venture out into space with US astronaut Rex Walheim, but he will now be replaced.

Atlantis, which docked with the ISS on Saturday, was delivering Europe's Columbus science laboratory.

Mr Schlegel was pulled from the job on Saturday because of illness. The US space agency (Nasa) has refused to elaborate on what was ailing German astronaut Hans Schlegel, but said it was not life-threatening.

Nasa's website said that the medical issue would have "no impact to the overall mission objectives" and that the spacewalk on Monday would be conducted by Rex Walheim and Stan Love, who steps in for Mr Schlegel.

The only difference is who's going out the hatch," said Nasa flight director Mike Sarafin.

Schlegel was said to be looking and sounding well on Sunday, and was expected to take part in the second spacewalk of the mission on Wednesday.

The primary purpose of the spacewalk, which is due to begin at 1430 GMT (0930 EST) is to help install the European space laboratory, Columbus.

Columbus cost about $2bn (£1bn) and has room for three researchers in fields ranging from crop breeding to the development of advanced alloys.

The lab is the first part of the ISS that the European Space Agency (Esa) will control. Installation will now start on Monday.

Routine inspection

Before docking, the crew guided Atlantis in a back-flip manoeuvre that allowed crew on the space station to photograph the shuttle's protective heat-resistant tiles.
Engineers on Earth will check the images for any possible damage that may have been done to the tiles during lift-off.

This became a routine safety measure after the shuttle Columbia disintegrated on re-entering the Earth's atmosphere in 2003.

The 7m-long (24ft), 4.5m-wide (14ft), 12.8-tonne laboratory will be manoeuvred into position by the shuttle's robotic arm, and docked to the station's Harmony Node 2 connector.

Esa astronaut Leopold Eyharts will be staying on the station to commission Columbus, a process that should take a few weeks to complete.

Its installation will mean Esa becomes a full member of the orbital project.

Atlantis was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, and is due to return to Earth now on 19 February, a day's extension to the originally planned 11-day mission.

Once the lab is in place, an intensive programme of research in weightless surroundings will begin.

The experiments will also help researchers better understand the physiological demands of long-duration spaceflight, something that will be important if humans are ever to colonise the Moon or travel to Mars.

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