Wed, Feb 25, 2004
So, Who's Watching The Place?
The two-man crew of the
international space station will venture outside the craft at the
same time this week, despite earlier concerns that the exercise was
"a risk not worth taking," The Washington Post reported on Monday.
The Post cited NASA documents obtained by the newspaper.
Ground controllers are to fly the empty space station, while
British-born NASA astronaut Michael Foale and Russian cosmonaut
Alexander Kaleri conduct the spacewalk, leaving no one inside to
monitor systems directly or assist in a crisis, the newspaper
According to the Post, the Russians have made about 50 such
spacewalks, but this would mark the first for the U.S.-led space
station. The spacewalk planned for Thursday was scheduled to begin
about 4 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) and was supposed to last five hours and
40 minutes, the report said. The work that Foale and Kaleri will
perform on the spacewalk -- deploy and collect science experiments
-- is not urgent but would have to be done eventually, NASA
officials told the newspaper.
According to a July review of spacewalk plans, station managers
at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston initially opposed this
week's spacewalk and recommended that it be put off until shuttle
flights resumed and the station had a three-person crew, The Post
"Crew Safety and the vehicle while they are performing EVA
(extra vehicle activity) without an crew is a risk not worth taking
specially if the EVA tasks are not critical" to maintaining the
space station, according to the NASA review quoted in the
The report said the Russians refused to sign on to the document
unless the spacewalk was planned for as a requirement. Citing NASA
sources and documents, the newspaper said the Russians insisted on
the need for the spacewalk to fulfill their contracts with the
Japanese and European space agencies and bring in money to their
cash-strapped space program.
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