Astronaut Spacewalk For Repair Succeeds
"The door is starting to slide open -- we're able to open it six to eight inches," Fincke said.
"Stop, stop, stop -- continue," said Padalka at one point.
"We've got plenty of time," ground controllers reminded them.
"We've got it open about 12 inches," Fincke reported.
Moments later, the last of the 12 bolts was released. With the blue curving horizon of Earth in the background, the crewmen struggled for a while to open an access door, but finally succeeded at 7:35 p.m.
A little more than 2 1/2 hours after the spacewalk began at 5:19 p.m., Fincke and Padalka replaced the circuit breaker that had disabled the gyroscope. After the complex effort to get the crewmen in place, the actual repair was accomplished with anticlimactic speed. The only real problem the crew encountered was in getting the panel door open after they removed the bolts, and in replacing the door after making the repair.
The orbiting laboratory was built by more than a dozen countries, starting in 1998. Since the Columbia disaster last year and the grounding of the space shuttle fleet, it has been operating with a two-person crew and limited supplies.
The space-age electrical fix on the problem-plagued space station followed the failure of two gyroscopes, which have rapidly spinning wheels that keep the station properly oriented. The station can function with its two remaining gyroscopes, but should a third fail, a repair at that point would entail considerably greater risk.
Only two crewmen were aboard the station, instead of the usual three, which meant that no one was inside to deal with a potential emergency.
Last week's spacewalk was aborted after Fincke's oxygen supply began to deplete too quickly. Russian controllers immediately ordered the men back into the hatch. Another spacewalk was canceled in February after a cooling problem with a Russian spacesuit.
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