- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2006


Two spacewalking astronauts did so well at their International Space Station repairs that they finished up 90 minutes early and got extra jobs from NASA’s massive orbital “wish list.”

German astronaut Thomas Reiter even had a moment to marvel at the weakening Tropical Storm Chris below.

“Incredible. It’s not as bad out there,” he said, noting the same changes as meteorologists on the ground.

The primary chore of Mr. Reiter and his American partner Jeff Williams during their six-hour adventure was to repair a new cooling system so it could be put into operation by December.

That done, they got more assignments: installing new equipment for a future experiment, removing a faulty Global Positioning System antenna and putting in some handles for future spacewalking.

The spacewalk, the 69th in the construction of the space station, is important for expanding the orbital outpost with a flurry of 10 rocket launches in the next year, said Kirk Shireman, NASA deputy space station program manager.

As they ventured out of the space station yesterday morning, Mr. Reiter became the first spacewalker in history to wear a German flag on his American spacesuit. Mr. Reiter has walked in space twice before, both expeditions in Russian suits out of the old Russian Mir space station. Mr. Williams is making his third spacewalk.

While the pair were outside, Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov remained inside the station. Having Mr. Vinogradov available is a “significant help,” said Dana Weigel, spacewalk flight director. The space station has three occupants now for the first time since the Columbia accident in 2003. Spacewalks in the recent past had no one providing support inside.

Besides the cooling system repair, the astronauts also zipped through work with an infrared camera, taking pictures of mock-ups of the space shuttle heat shield to look for hidden holes, and the installation of a device to measure electrical charges outside the orbital outpost. The device measures voltage potential that could be “a shock hazard” to spacewalkers, Mr. Weigel said.

The mix of work done on this spacewalk, which does not have the derring-do of Hubble telescope repairs or other construction work, is typical of what will be happening frequently over the next several years, said lead spacewalk officer Paul Boehm.

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