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Plumbing job takes astronauts on space walk

Earth’s horizon and the blackness of space provide the backdrop as Tranquility is moved to the space station last week.

NASA

Earth’s horizon and the blackness of space provide the backdrop as Tranquility is moved to the space station last week.

CAPE CANAVERAL — A pair of spacewalking astronauts floated back outside Saturday night to hook up plumbing on the newest room of the International Space Station and bring it alive with power.

Robert Behnken and Nicholas Patrick had to route extra-long hoses that were fashioned right before the trip by space shuttle Endeavour to the space station. The original ammonia coolant lines failed tests, and so engineers had to put together replacement hoses from shorter spares that were welded together.

The hoses are 14 feet to 18 feet long and, along with a protective blanket, cumbersome to work with.

"It certainly is longer than I remember it being," Patrick said as he got started.

It was the second excursion in three days for Behnken and Patrick. They have one more space walk to finish installing the Tranquility room and its attached observation deck, the last major building blocks of the 11-year-old space station. Endeavour carried up the pieces last week.

Once ammonia coolant is flowing through the hoses, Tranquility will begin surging with power. Its systems cannot be turned on unless there is a way to get rid of the heat generated by the equipment inside.

The $400 million-plus Tranquility and lookout — supplied by the European Space Agency — will hold life-support systems, exercise equipment and a toilet.

The domed lookout is essentially an enormous bay window that will provide breathtaking views of Earth. Its seven windows includes the largest ever flown in space: a round one 31 inches across.

Mission managers on Saturday added a 14th day to the mission to give the crew time to move water-recycling equipment into Tranquility. NASA wanted to see if repairs to the broken urine-processing machine worked before moving the equipment. They apparently did.

Endeavour is now scheduled to return to Earth on Feb. 21.

Plumbing job takes astronauts on space walk 02/13/10 [Last modified: Saturday, February 13, 2010 11:03pm]
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