- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 1, 2004

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The International Space Station’s two astronauts hustled through an unusually risky spacewalk and successfully replaced a bad circuit breaker yesterday — a sweet victory after a failed attempt last week.

Shouts of “hurray” and “great” emanated from space after American Mike Fincke and Russian Gennady Padalka learned that their effort had paid off.

“Great job, you guys,” Mission Control radioed.

“We’re glad to be able to be of service,” Mr. Fincke said.

It was a long and potentially dangerous haul to the work site — and back to the hatch after the repairs were made.

Mr. Fincke and Mr. Padalka had to cross nearly 100 feet to get to the fried circuit breaker — a grueling distance for spacewalkers over difficult terrain. Then they managed to pry off the cover for the row of circuit breakers; it was very stiff and hard to move.

The two were ahead of schedule the entire time, and flight controllers kept urging them to take their time and be careful.

Less than six hours after venturing out, the men were safely back inside.

Last Thursday, they had barely made it out of the hatch when their spacewalk was aborted, 14 minutes after it began. An oxygen-flow switch on Mr. Fincke’s suit did not lock into the proper position and oxygen gushed out of his tank, prompting flight controllers to order the spacewalkers back inside.

NASA had been anxious to replace the circuit breaker to restore power to one of the gyroscopes that keep the 225-mile-high outpost steady and pointed in the right direction.

The circuit breaker failed operating in April, leaving the space station with two good gyroscopes, the bare minimum. With a new breaker in, the idled gyroscope checked out fine last night and was expected to be up and running within a day.

The spacewalk was considered riskier than most, and not just because the men were using Russian spacesuits not intended for this type of hand-intensive, U.S. repair work.

The space station is down to two crew members, instead of three, because of the grounding of the shuttle fleet since the Columbia disaster. That meant that no one was inside the space station to watch over it during the spacewalk — a situation the National Aeronautics and Space Administration never tolerated until this year.

After floating through the Russian hatch, the two men cranked open an extendible boom to traverse the station, and made it to the work site on the U.S. side without incident about 11/2 hours later.

They removed the old circuit breaker and pushed in the spare. Mission Control confirmed the swap was good.

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