Astronauts at the International Space Station got one spacewalk closer to completing their arduous mission today after successfully bolting part of a solar power array into place.
Astronauts Scott Parazynski and Doug Wheelock directed robot arm operators Stephanie Wilson and Dan Tani as they carefully worked a 35,000-pound solar array segment into position on the far left end of the space station's main power truss on Tuesday morning. The spacewalk completed a three-day 145-foot move -- a major milestone in the station's assembly.
Over the weekend, astronauts discovered that a large ball joint used to position solar panels on the space station seems to be rubbing up against another part, causing it to use more power than normal and vibrate the solar array. Tani found metal shavings inside the joint when he opened it up during a spacewalk Sunday.
After the Shuttle Discovery astronauts were told their mission would be extended to attempt to repair the damaged solar panel, ABC News producer Gina Sunseri interviewed members of the crew.
Sunseri: Spacewalker Dan Tani, did you have sort of an "a hah" moment when you opened up the cover of SARJ (solar array rotating joint) yesterday?
Tani: We knew the SARJ has been having problems and we have kind of scratching our heads as to what might cause the problem. I was certainly hoping it was something easy, something that I could see stuck on the outside of the rotating structure, but I went all around it and I didn't see anything that looked obvious. When I got the instructions to open up the cover and I could see instantly that there was debris in there. I have never seen one in a pristine state. This is not a task that I was prepared for but it was obvious to me that there was significant debris, sort of a dust in there, it was quite obvious as soon as I opened it up.
Sunseri: Cmdr. [Pam] Melroy, you all have been told your mission will be extended. What is involved on your part to make this happen?
Melroy: Fortunately we had actually talked about this possibility before we flew. Things have gone pretty smoothly so far but the reality is there are so many different elements to the mission. For each one of those elements we talked about what would happen if something didn't go smoothly and we kept coming back to the option of adding a day so I think in the end it doesn't really surprise us and we talked through some of the implications of it already. I think the biggest thing for us is it's another day in space docked to the space station and I think that is great.
Sunseri: Pilot George Zamka, Commander Melroy mentioned it has been a little tough getting you all to bed on time. What's going on up there?
Zamka: I think somebody said it is Christmas every night, we are having a good time up here — just like Christmas Eve, it is tough to get the kids to bed because we are just having a blast and there is always one more thing we can get done and we keep pushing it just a couple of minutes.
Sunseri: Cmdr. [Peggy] Whitson, usually when the shuttle leaves you get to relax and kick back, after all you've had company for a couple of weeks, but it looks like you and your crew will have to kick into high gear after Discovery leaves.
Whitson: This Harmony module isn't actually resting in its final location but we can't put it in its final location until after the shuttle leaves because it is going to go on the forward end of the station on the Destiny module. So we have to wait for the shuttle to depart, remove the pressurized mating adaptor the shuttle is docked to, put it on to Node 2 Harmony, and then move it all up to the forward lab, there are robotics involved, then we have to do the electrical and thermal connections and all that has to be completed so we can receive another shuttle. Of course, putting node 2 means we can add on additional science modules.
Sunseri: Cmdr. Whitson, you once told astronaut Jeff Ashby to not come visit the space station unless he brought salsa. What did Pam Melroy bring for a treat.
Whitson: The request was for tortillas, and they brought loads of tortillas and it was great!