- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 22, 2009

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) | Astronauts took another spacewalk at the International Space Station on Saturday, this time to lighten the workload for future crews.

As soon as they floated outside, Steven Swanson and Joseph Acaba made their way to the end of the space station’s power-grid framework. They loosened bolts holding down batteries, which will be replaced on the next shuttle visit in June.

A space station alarm went off as the spacewalkers wrapped up that job. The gyroscopes that were maintaining the position of the station-shuttle complex became overloaded from the astronauts’ work on the end of the truss. Discovery quickly assumed control with its thrusters.

“Nothing to worry about,” Mission Control assured the astronauts.

The astronauts later had trouble deploying an equipment-storage platform. Mission Control ordered them to give up and move on to other tasks: installing a GPS antenna and using an infrared camera to photograph a pair of radiators, one of which has a peeling cover.

It was the second spacewalk in three days for the crew of shuttle Discovery. On Thursday, Mr. Swanson and another astronaut installed the final pair of solar wings at the orbiting outpost. The panels were unfurled Friday.

Saturday’s excursion, though just as busy, was not expected to have the drama associated with the multimillion-dollar, high-priority solar wings. NASA was still basking in that success, telling the astronauts in a wake-up message that the space station “now looks like the artist renderings that we’ve been seeing for years. A day to celebrate!”

Mr. Swanson and Mr. Acaba, a former Florida schoolteacher making his first spacewalk, ended up tackling some chores that were added just this past week. The antenna work, for instance, was supposed to occur on a later spacewalk that ended up being canceled because of shuttle Discovery’s repeated launch delays.

The GPS antenna, the second to be installed on the Japanese laboratory, will be needed when Japan launches a new space station cargo carrier this fall.

Mr. Swanson and Mr. Acaba’s battery work took them to the far left end of the space station framework that holds the space station wings, the opposite side from where Thursday’s job took place. NASA said there could be some induced electrical voltage way out there, but the risk of shock was considered small and well within acceptable limits. Indeed, nothing wayward happened.

Nonetheless, as a precaution, the metal wrist rings on the men’s spacesuits were covered with insulating tape. They also kept checking their cuffs to make sure they were down and fastened.

Inside the space station, meanwhile, astronauts conducted a dry run of the new urine processor that was delivered by Discovery. It’s part of a recycling system for turning urine and condensation into drinking water. The original urine processor broke.

One more spacewalk is planned Monday during Discovery’s mission. The shuttle will depart the space station Wednesday, eight days after arriving, and return to Earth on Saturday.

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