Two astronauts from the U.S. space shuttle Endeavour began a series of repairs on the International Space Station Tuesday. The space walk is the first of four that the astronauts have planned for the current mission. VOA's Catherine Cannon has this report from Washington.
The first mission for Endeavour's crew began as astronauts Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper and Steve Bowen left the station for a more than six-hour walk in space. The astronauts' main task for all four space walks is to repair and lubricate massive joints that turn the station's solar panels toward the sun. The solar panels must face the sun in order to produce the maximum amount of electricity for the station.
During the first space walk, Stefanyshyn-Piper and Bowen cleaned and lubricated the starboard solar alpha rotary joint.
Tuesday's mission included the transfer of a nitrogen tank assembly from a storage platform on the space station to the shuttle Endeavour so it can be brought back to Earth. NASA technicians described the work as the astronauts carried out the mission.
"Steve Bowen as he moves hand-and-hand back to the cargo carrier where he will help Stefanyshyn-Piper install that for return home to Earth," a NASA official explained.
Astronaut Shane Kimbrough, who will participate in the next space walk, is this walk's choreographer or intravehicular officer. Mission specialist Don Pettit is in charge operating the Canadarm2, a robotic arm that helps the space walkers move materials.
To prepare for conditions outside the space station, Stefanyshyn-Piper and Bowen spent the night in lower air pressure to remove nitrogen from their systems.
Stefanyshyn-Piper will also participate in the crew's second space walk. The astronauts will continue to clean and repair the joints on the space station in two days.