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Astronauts Spacewalk to Test Hubble Repair Tools

September 17, 1993|From Associated Press

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Two astronauts acting as Hubble Space Telescope mechanics twisted bolts and tried out a swivel work platform Thursday in NASA's final spacewalk before the real repair job in December.

Crew members Carl Walz and James Newman tested a power ratchet and five other Hubble tools during their seven-hour spacewalk. Before going back inside the shuttle Discovery, they held up a sign with a picture of the ace of spades and the words: "Ace HST Tool Testers."

The flight director for the Hubble repair mission, Milt Heflin, said the spacewalk was "a confidence builder, a day that I consider adding to our margins for success."

Walz and Newman spent most of their outing working along the edge of Discovery's payload bay. At times, they dangled overboard as the shuttle whizzed around the world, their tethered tools floating around them.

The spacewalkers zipped through their steps, evaluating each tool and task and comparing it to their training on Earth. They gave lots of A's, but some C's and even D's.

Walz had trouble, for instance, using the battery-powered ratchet to tighten and untighten bolts with his feet unrestrained. "Your body just goes whipping around," he said.

At the same time, Newman was trying to keep his feet inside a new portable foot restraint. Once secured, he swayed back and forth high over the bay, adjusting the platform with a foot pedal.

The only real problem came at the end of the spacewalk, when the door on a portable toolbox jammed. It took both men half an hour to close it; by then, their planned six-hour walk had stretched to seven hours.

A record five and possibly seven spacewalks are planned for the 11-day telescope repair mission in December. Four spacewalkers will take turns going out in teams of two to install corrective lenses and new solar panels, gyroscopes, a camera and a computer memory board.

Meanwhile, two others took a stroll in space Thursday. Russian cosmonauts Vasily Tsibliyev and Alexander Serebrov spent four hours outside their Mir space station to install equipment.

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