Astronaut savors first walk in space
February 15, 1997
Web posted at: 12:47 p.m. EST (1247 GMT)
JOHNSON SPACE CENTER, Texas (CNN) -- Joe Tanner's first walk
in space was a delicate dance of precise mechanical
manipulation made to look oh, so easy. (187K/16 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Heaving a malfunctioning guidance sensor the size of a baby
grand piano out of its compartment on the Hubble Space
Telescope, he and fellow spacewalker Gregory Harbaugh deftly
replaced it -- one of three -- early Saturday.
While they worked, Harbaugh and Tanner performed a weightless
ballet while marveling at spectacular views of their home
planet 370 miles below.
"What a picture this is," Harbaugh exclaimed. "Man, oh, man."
Tanner remarked that the view came from "the best seat in the
Astronauts Mark Lee and Steven Smith were scheduled to do a
similar walk in space later Saturday to install more
Remarkable space photos
The instrument exchange by Tanner and Harbaugh took about
three hours of their 7.5-hour walk in space. With Tanner on
the end of the shuttle Discovery's robot arm, the two
astronauts gently slid the new sensor into place. The instrument has so
much stability that it could focus a laser beam on a dime from
200 miles (320 kilometers) away.
"I think it's in there, yes sir," Harbaugh said as Tanner
maneuvered the sensor.
Tanner sealed the $8 million sensor into its compartment with
NASA's version of an electric drill, while NASA cameras
beamed back pictures that astronaut Story Musgrave called
some of the most remarkable scenes ever sent from space.
Tanner and Harbaugh also installed an electronics enhancement
kit for the new sensor and replaced a broken data recorder.
Years in space take toll on Hubble
The astronauts finished their second spacewalk in Discovery's
repair mission with an inspection of the damage done during
Hubble's seven years in space. The satellite's foil "skin" is
torn and peeling away in some parts, and the 40-foot-long
(12 meters) electricity-generating solar panels have taken a
number of debris hits.
Astronaut Story Musgrave, who orchestrated the
first Hubble repair three years ago, talks about
the mission and the telescope
Videotaping the damage on one of the panels, Tanner said it
looked "like somebody shot a small caliber bullet right
Surprised by the extent of the damage, NASA mission managers
were meeting Saturday to discuss options for repairing the
insulation foil, which protects the satellite from the harsh
temperatures of space.
"The specific concern is if that starts breaking off, then it
could contaminate the optics and then degrade the
capabilities of the telescope," said astronaut Jerry Ross,
watching the repair efforts from Mission Control.
Once the astronauts were inside the shuttle again, Discovery
commander Ken Bowersox nudged the orbiter and its $2 billion
payload another two miles into space. Two more firings of the
shuttle's small jets will move the telescope's orbit to about
375 miles above Earth, farther from the pull of the planet's
Lee, Smith prepare for second time out
On Thursday, astronauts Lee and Smith spent 6.5 hours in
space installing a $125 million, two-dimensional imaging
spectrograph and a $105 million near-infrared camera into
Mission managers declared the pair's walk "100 percent
successful," and on Saturday said the new equipment appeared
to be working properly. Astronomers expected to wait about 10
weeks, however, before seeing the instruments' first images
Lee and Smith are to make their second trip into Discovery's
cargo bay later Saturday. The two will replace another data
recorder and install a new interface between the telescope
itself and Hubble's command center.
Tanner and Harbaugh will take a second turn on Sunday.
The mission is the first to Hubble since a 1993 mission to
repair faulty optics that had left the telescope virtually
unusable since its 1990 deployment. The 1993 repair job was
successful, however, and Hubble has been beaming pictures of
space that no Earth-bound telescope could capture.
The next Hubble repair mission is scheduled in about 3.5
years; the telescope has a life expectancy of about 15 years.
Correspondent John Holliman and
Reuters contributed to this report.
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