CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Astronauts Scott Parazynski and Doug Wheelock stepped out into space for more than six hours Friday, moved around a lot of hardware and won plaudits for a remarkably smooth performance.
“It’s not very often that I can report that a day went exactly as planned,” said Derek Hassman, a NASA space station director. “But this is probably as close as we get to one of those days.”
The two spacewalkers coordinated with crewmates aboard shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station to move a school-bus-sized module known as Harmony to a temporary location on the side of the station. The 16-ton, 26-foot-long compartment will serve as extra living space for the station’s crew and a connection point for two new laboratories that will be delivered in upcoming missions.
During the marathon construction job about 200 miles above the Earth, Wheelock rode the station’s giant robotic arm while Parazynski toiled inside the shuttle’s cargo bay, traveling hand-over-hand along a rail. The two astronauts also retrieved and stored a broken antenna from the station and prepared an array of solar panels for a big move Sunday. They even managed to tighten a few parts on Harmony that had been jarred loose during Discovery’s launch.
Parazynski, a veteran spacewalker, took special joy in pointing out vistas to Wheelock, who was on his first stroll in space. “Look at that full moon off to your right, over the starboard wing,” he said at one point. “What a view.”
The feats of the spacewalkers and their colleagues inside the space station – who worked the giant robotic arm – were noteworthy not just because of what they achieved, but because they unfolded seamlessly.
NASA has hit a run of good luck since Discovery launched Tuesday. And NASA engineers are suggesting they made their own luck, with more cautious planning and some refinements to the external fuel-tank design as well as improved liftoff procedures.