March 22, 2009 in Nation/World

Spacewalkers install pin on station upside down

Marcia Dunn Associated Press
 

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Spacewalking astronauts accidentally inserted a pin upside down and jammed an equipment storage platform at the International Space Station on Saturday, prompting NASA to assemble a special team to try to resolve the problem.

Steven Swanson and Joseph Acaba finished most of their other chores – loosening bolts on batteries, hooking up an antenna and photographing a pair of radiators. But the pin trouble ate up so much time they had to skip some work.

NASA immediately put together a team of experts to determine whether there’s any way the crew can pry or hammer the pin loose during a spacewalk Monday – the third and final of shuttle Discovery’s mission.

The lead spacewalk officer in Mission Control, Glenda Laws-Brown, said that since there is no up or down in space, Acaba apparently installed the clamplike pin upside down – “180 degrees out from where it should have been.”

“Even with it being installed in the opposite location, he just drew a card of bad luck … if it had been rotated just a little bit more or maybe a little bit less, it might have cleared just fine,” she told reporters Saturday night.

“Some days you’re lucky, and some days you’re less lucky.”

The equipment storage platform ended up being partially deployed on the space station’s framework. To keep it from flapping around, Swanson tied it down with tethers.

Those tethers, however, have a certified lifetime of just three months out in space. As a result, engineers were looking at a more permanent solution in case the platform remains jammed.

Saturday’s 6 1/2 -hour excursion was the second in three days for the crew of shuttle Discovery. On Thursday, Swanson and another astronaut installed the final pair of solar wings at the orbiting outpost. The panels were unfurled Friday.

The latest spacewalk was just as busy but lacked the drama associated with the multimillion-dollar, high-priority solar wings. NASA was still basking in that success, telling the astronauts in a wake-up message that the space station “now looks like the artist renderings that we’ve been seeing for years. A day to celebrate!”

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