- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 23, 2008

HOUSTON (AP) — With their fifth and final spacewalk under their belt, Endeavour’s astronauts planned to take some well-deserved time off today before starting the journey home.

Astronauts Michael Foreman and Robert Behnken sailed through their six-hour spacewalk yesterday, attaching a 50-foot inspection pole to the international space station and completing other chores.

“You were just fabulous out there today,” astronaut Richard Linnehan told the pair as they floated back into the station about a half hour ahead of schedule. “I can’t say enough. Thanks for making everyone look good.”

The shuttle crew used the laser-tipped inspection boom at the beginning of its 16-day mission and again Friday night to check for any damage to the spaceship. It’s become a routine safety procedure ever since the 2003 Columbia accident.

Discovery won’t have room for a boom when it flies in May because the Japanese Kibo lab is so big it will take up the entire payload bay. So Endeavour’s astronauts left theirs behind.

Foreman and Behnken hooked an extra-long power cord to the inspection pole, to keep its lasers and cameras warm for the next two months, then secured the boom to the outside of the space station.

After finishing that task, Foreman inspected a jammed rotating joint that has restricted the use of a set of solar wings for months. NASA hopes to have a plan for dealing with the jammed joint by the end of the month, space station flight director Dana Weigel said.

Meanwhile, Behnken finally succeeded in hanging some scientific experiments to the European Columbus lab. He had trouble getting the containers to latch down during an earlier spacewalk but succeeded this time with help from a hammer.

“I’m just proud as all get out of you two guys,” Endeavour commander Dominic Gorie said as the spacewalkers finished their work.

Last night’s spacewalk was the last major space station job for Endeavour’s crew. The shuttle arrived at the orbiting complex March 12, delivering the first section of the Kibo lab and a Canadian robot with 11-foot arms that is designed to assist future spacewalkers.

Endeavour is scheduled to undock from the space station tomorrow night and land back at Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday night. The shuttle’s thermal shield has been cleared for landing.

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