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Final walk goes well for shuttle mission

CAPE CANAVERAL — Endeavour's astronauts embarked on the fifth and final space walk of their mission Saturday, this time attaching a 50-foot inspection pole to the international space station for use by the next shuttle visitors.

Michael Foreman and Robert Behnken floated out the hatch late in the afternoon and successfully accomplished all their work.

The astronauts used the laser-tipped inspection boom at the beginning of their 16-day mission and again Friday night to check for any damage to their space shuttle. It has become a routine safety procedure since the 2003 Columbia accident.

Discovery won't have room for a boom when it flies in May; the Japanese Kibo lab is so big it will take up the entire payload bay. So Endeavour's astronauts left theirs behind.

Foreman and Behnken hooked a power cord to the inspection pole to keep its lasers and cameras warm for the next two months, then secured the boom to the outside of the space station.

With the boom work quickly completed, the spacewalkers turned to less pressing chores. They inspected a jammed rotating joint that has restricted the use of a set of solar wings for months and finally succeeded in hanging some scientific experiments to the European lab, Columbus.

Behnken was unable to hook the experiments to Columbus' hull during space walk No. 3 because of some sort of interference. He got the connector pins in this time, using a hammer.

As for the jammed solar joint, it's filled with metal shavings because of grinding parts.

NASA has been trying since last fall to figure out what is broken and how best to fix the joint. Astronauts inspected the joint several times before and even collected samples of the steel grit for analysis back on Earth. But five covers had yet to be removed, and that's where Foreman focused his efforts. He photographed what appeared to be a pit in the joint.

Endeavour is scheduled to undock from the space station on Monday night and land back at Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday night. The shuttle arrived at the orbiting complex March 12, delivering the first section of the Kibo lab and a Canadian robot designed to assist future spacewalkers.

Final walk goes well for shuttle mission 03/22/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:46am]
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