NASA astronauts have successfully repaired a damaged solar wing at the International Space Station. The operation was completed Saturday, after being postponed twice so engineers could further study how to accomplish the risky mission, which posed the danger of electrocuting the astronaut doing the repairs. From Washington, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.
Astronaut Scott Parazynski, an experienced spacewalker, performed the repairs on the torn solar wing outside the International Space Station. He was assisted by Astronaut Doug Wheelock who was positioned at the base of the solar wing and offered guidance.
NASA said repairing the wing was a top priority because the solar panel is necessary for powering equipment for future space missions.
Parazynski rode the station's robotic arm up to the damaged area of the wing on the farthest end of the Space Station. Once in place he took on the dangerous and difficult task of repairing the damaged panel. The solar panel captures sunlight to generate electricity and is alive with more than 100 volts of power that engineers cannot turn off.
To protect him from possible electrocution, the metal parts of his spacesuit and all his tools were wrapped in multiple layers of insulating tape.
Parazynski wore a camera mounted on his helmet, which streamed live video back to the Space Station and to Mission Control in Houston, Texas, allowing others to help guide him.
CONTROLLER: "Just confirm, you are going to cut below the vice grips?"
PARAZYNSKI: "Below the vice grips, in the works."
CONTROLLER 2: "Does he have a go?"
CONTROLLER: "You have a go."
PARAZYNSKI: "Here it comes: three, two, one… snip!"
The repair mission took more than seven hours, during which Parazynski installed homemade braces on the torn wing and clipped the twisted wires that had ripped it in two places when the 35-meter long solar wing was being unrolled Tuesday.
The astronauts then returned safely to the Space Station.
The Space Shuttle Discovery is due to complete its two-week mission and undock with the Space Station on Monday. The shuttle is expected to return to Earth on Wednesday.