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Astronaut takes out the trash

Old hardware, including a 1,400-pound tank, is tossed from the station.

July 24, 2007|From the Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. — A spacewalking astronaut did some major housecleaning Monday at the International Space Station, tossing out a camera mounting and an ammonia tank weighing more than half a ton.

The outdated equipment joined more than 9,000 pieces of orbital debris already being tracked from Earth. "I'll be sending my bill in the mail for trash disposal," Clayton Anderson joked to Mission Control.

Anderson hurled the 1,400-pound, refrigerator-size ammonia tank away from the station with a shove. His first toss was a 200-pound camera mounting.

Mission Control praised the tank throw as being "right down the middle."

"Well, in that case, give Brad Lidge and Roy Oswalt a call and tell them I just hummed a 17,500-mph fastball," Anderson said, referring to the star pitchers for his hometown Houston Astros.

For each celestial toss, Anderson leaned back on the end of the space station's 58-foot robot arm and rocked forward, shouting "Jettison!"

The ammonia tank had been launched in 2001 to provide spare coolant in case of a leak at the orbiting complex. The surplus ammonia was never needed, and the tank itself had exceeded its life expectancy.

NASA normally tries to avoid adding to the orbiting junkyard, but officials said they felt they had no choice in this case. The equipment had to be removed, and because of a looming 2010 deadline for ending all shuttle flights, NASA does not have room on its remaining missions to return the tank to Earth.

Flight controllers expect the ammonia tank to circle Earth for 10 or 11 months before reentering the atmosphere and burning up.

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