Thursday, April 8, 2010

Latest Space Shuttle News:First STS-131 Spacewalk Begins Tonight

The crew of space shuttle Discovery awoke Thursday at 8:51 p.m. EDT to “Defying Gravity” by Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth, played for Mission Specialist Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger.

Spacewalkers Rick Mastracchio and Clay Anderson spent the night in the International Space Station’s Quest Airlock, which was dialed down to a lower cabin pressure than the rest of the complex to rid their bodies of nitrogen and prevent the bends when they start their excursion. Preparations for the spacewalk resume at 9:26 p.m. and the activity is scheduled to begin at 1:41 a.m. Friday. Mastracchio and Anderson will undertake the laborious job of changing out a spent Ammonia Tank Assembly on the station’s exterior, a task that they will continue during the second spacewalk on Sunday and the third on Tuesday. They also will retrieve an experiment from the outside of the Japanese Exposed Facility and replace a failed gyroscope that is part of the station’s navigation system. Lindenburger will choreograph the spacewalk and serve as a link between Mission Control in Houston and the spacewalkers.

STS-131 crew members
Image above: STS-131 Commander Alan G. Poindexter (left) with Mission Specialists Stephanie Wilson (center) and Rick Mastracchio speak to members of the media on Earth. Image credit: NASA TV

› Meet the STS-131 Crew

Anderson, Mastracchio Prepare for First STS-131 Spacewalk

Mission Specialists Clayton Anderson and Rick Mastracchio will leave the Quest airlock for the mission’s first spacewalk to prepare a new ammonia tank and gyro assembly for the International Space Station and to retrieve a science experiment from the station’s porch, the Japanese Kibo Laboratory’s exposed facility.

The 6-½ hour spacewalk is scheduled to begin at 1:41 a.m. EDT Mastracchio, the mission's lead spacewalker, will wear a spacesuit marked with red stripes, while Anderson will wear an all-white spacesuit.

The two will perform three spacewalks during their time at the station. Anderson and Mastracchio performed two spacewalks together during the STS-118 mission in August 2007.