- The Washington Times - Monday, June 18, 2007

HOUSTON (AP) — Restoration of a failed computer system returned life to a regular rhythm on the International Space Station yesterday, as two astronauts took the fourth spacewalk since Space Shuttle Atlantis docked with the outpost a week ago.

“We’re slowly moving back into a normal mode of operations,” station commander Fyodor Yurchikhin radioed Mission Control in Moscow.

The “normal mode” included the last spacewalk of the mission, a previously unscheduled fourth trip outside the space station to finish tasks originally scheduled for the third spacewalk on Friday. Astronauts on the third spacewalk had the unplanned job of repairing a thermal blanket that had peeled back near Atlantis’ tail during the June 8 launch.

The spacewalk started at 12:25 p.m. EDT yesterday as the space station orbited 220 miles above the Atlantic Ocean.

The top priority for spacewalkers Patrick Forrester and Steven Swanson was activating a rotating joint on the outpost’s newest segment, allowing a new pair of solar wings to track the sun and provide power to the station. The solar arrays were delivered to the space station by Atlantis, which arrived at the outpost a week ago.

The astronauts also set up a new camera stanchion outside the station’s newest segment and planned to install a debris shield and a computer network cable between the United States and Russian sides of the space station during the planned 6½-hour spacewalk.

At the end of the day, flight controllers on the ground planned to give the rotating joint a small test by moving it 5 degrees. A more thorough test to see whether the solar arrays track the sun is in store for today.

Flight controllers also plan to test the space station’s thrusters, which haven’t been used since the crash last week of the Russian computers that control orientation and oxygen production.

Mr. Yurchikhin and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov got four of the six computer processors operating again Friday. The remaining two were brought back online Saturday but then flipped back off to be “in cold standby mode” so that they could be used if needed.

“We can report that things are still improving,” said flight director Holly Ridings.

With the exception of an oxygen generator, all of the space station systems that were powered down when the computers failed were back running.

Mission managers will decide after the station’s thrusters are put to the test whether Atlantis needs to spend another day at the outpost. During the computer meltdown, Atlantis’ thrusters were used to help the station maintain its orientation.

Atlantis is set to undock tomorrow and land Thursday in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

“We’re going to give it a checkout,” Miss Ridings said. “We’ll make sure the computers are still talking to the thrusters and prove to ourselves that we’ve got everything we need in order to undock safely.”