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Tue, Feb 12, 2008

STS-122 Spacewalkers Attach Columbus Module To ISS

NASA To Decide Tuesday On Adding A Second Extra Day To Mission

What a team. On Monday, STS-122 and Expedition 16 crew members worked together to attach the European Space Agency's Columbus Laboratory to the International Space Station's Harmony module.

During STS-122's first spacewalk, Mission Specialists Rex Walheim and Stanley Love bolted the Power and Data Grapple Fixture (PDGF) to the Columbus module. The PDGF provided a grapple point for the station's robotic arm. The spacewalkers installed power cables on Columbus and reinstalled the debris shields they had removed earlier.

STS-122 Mission Specialists Leland Melvin and Daniel Tani, along with Expedition 16 Flight Engineer Leopold Eyharts, used the orbital outpost's robotic arm to guide Columbus into position for final installation. The $2 billion Columbus lab was officially attached to the right side of the Harmony module at 1644 EST.

"The European Columbus module is officially part of the International Space Station," said Eyharts after the installation, reports Agence-France Presse.

The delivery and installation of Columbus represents a milestone in Europe's history in space, and is the first addition to the "international" station that didn't come from the US or Russia. It won't be the last -- Japan's Kibo module is slated for delivery in March.

Meanwhile, the spacewalkers completed some work to prepare for the replacement of the Nitrogen Tank Assembly (NTA), part of the station's thermal control system, on the P1 truss. They also installed micrometeroid debris shields to the module's exterior.

The seven-hour, 58-minute excursion concluded at 1711 EST.

As ANN reported, Love stood in on the spacewalk in the place of German astronaut Hans Schlegel, who fell victim to an as-yet-unknown malady this weekend. NASA remains mum on the nature of Schlegel's ailment, citing privacy concerns -- but for the moment, he is scheduled to join Walheim on STS-122's second spacewalk, slated to being Wednesday morning.

On Sunday, ESA spokesman Markus Bauer said Schlegel, 56, appeared to have recovered, and was doing "very well. We are assuming that he will take part in the second spacewalk," the spokesman added. (We'll note here it's not uncommon for first-time spacefarers to suffer from motion sickness during their first few days in orbit -- Ed.)

Walheim and Schlegel will complete the replacement of the NTA and install trunnion covers on Columbus during the second spacewalk.

In related news, NASA announced Monday the shuttle Atlantis' heat shield appears to be in perfect condition, with the critical nose and wing leading edges earning a clean bill of health. The agency is still determining whether to undergo a spacewalk to tack down a small heat blanket section on the orbiter's right Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) pod.

STS-122 chief John Shannon said the agency will determine Tuesday whether to add a second extra day in orbit, presumably to allow for a spacewalk to repair the blanket. Atlantis crewmembers have already taken steps to conserve energy, to allow enough juice to keep Atlantis in orbit for the extra day.

FMI: www.nasa.gov

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