Space station’s astronauts leave instead of finishing space station work

Astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Karen Nyberg to remain outside International Space Station until Friday NASA’s spacewalkers will leave the International Space Station before schedule on Thursday after detecting one of their sets of…

Space station's astronauts leave instead of finishing space station work

Astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Karen Nyberg to remain outside International Space Station until Friday

NASA’s spacewalkers will leave the International Space Station before schedule on Thursday after detecting one of their sets of batteries had been damaged, making the spacewalk much harder to execute.

The astronauts, Mark Vande Hei and Karen Nyberg, spent a few hours replacing two sets of batteries on a cooling system used by the orbiting outpost on Tuesday. They were not told of the damage until early on Wednesday.

Astronauts set off to replace two spare batteries on the International Space Station. Photograph: NASA TV

The two sets of batteries were built by Nasa and were replaced from the ground. The machines to do the job had been parked far away, on the ground, so they could work as designed.

Veteran spacewalker Nyberg used two tools – an arm extension from the docked space shuttle Atlantis and a grapple tool – to pull the massive machines from a tower and retrieve them to the station.

But the spacewalkers couldn’t get those tools past an antenna on the end of the hooks, which is why NASA decided against resuming their work on Wednesday morning. The goal now is to make another attempt on Friday, weather permitting.

During the two-hour and 43-minute spacewalk, Vande Hei and Nyberg hooked up power and data relay cables for a new high-gain antenna, boosted the power grid to support the expansion of the space station’s crew from six to seven next week, and repositioned two portside ammonia coolant pumps.

Space enthusiasts flocked to a webcam that Nasa provided. Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, turned on the live webcast at 8.13am Eastern time on Wednesday.

The spacewalk was originally slated to last about six hours, the same duration as the three-hour, 19-minute activities of 8 August. But that spacewalk was cut short due to a crack in a spacewalking solar array during the work of US astronaut Shane Kimbrough.

The solar arrays on board the space station, where all six astronauts live, can only remain open to power during the day. They were snapped in two on 16 July when Kimbrough removed a faulty power control unit and reinstalled it inside the outpost. The array usually closes during the overnight. The previously scheduled spacewalk, on 17 July, was cancelled due to concerns over the robot arm, which can be used to do the task.

The two spare batteries, the reason for the first spacewalk, were on an American-built attachment on the side of the station. It was being removed to put in a European-built storage unit.

All six crew members were resting comfortably at 8.55am eastern time on Wednesday, Nasa reported.

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