Robot Arm Gets Spacewalking Repairs at International Space Station
Spacewalking astronauts wrapped up months of repair work Friday on the International Space Station's big robot arm.
The Canadian-built, 58-foot robot arm had both of its aging mechanical hands replaced on spacewalks conducted in October and January. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Japan's Norishige Kanai quickly moved one of those old hands to a long-term storage location outside, and prepped the other to bring it back inside so it can be returned to Earth for a tuneup and then flown back up.
This last spacewalk in the series should have been completed by now, but was postponed because of complications with the robotic hand that was installed last month. Ground controllers eventually solved the problem. Further delays were caused by this week's late arrival of a Russian supply ship.
The old mechanical hands are original space station parts, in orbit since 2001. Each hand -- a bulky bundle of latches -- is more than 3 feet, or a meter, long and more than 440 pounds (200 kilograms).
Vande Hei and Kanai accomplished their main objectives so fast that they had time to tackle extra chores.
"Great job, guys," Mission Control radioed.
The astronauts emerged from the orbiting complex as the sun rose over Peru, 250 miles below. A half-hour later, they were soaring over London and, 15 minutes after that, over Turkmenistan.
"It's an amazing view over someplace that's got lots of snow ... or maybe not," radioed Vande Hei, making his fourth spacewalk. He returns to Earth at the end of this month.
It was the first spacewalk for Kanai, a surgeon who arrived at the space station in December. An experienced Japanese astronaut who previously visited the station, Akihiko Hoshide, relayed directions to the spacewalkers from Mission Control in Houston.
Four other men currently live at the space station.
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