Army Astronaut to Help Repair Damaged Solar Array
November 1, 2007
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 1, 2007) - NASA postponed Army astronaut Col. Doug Wheelock's third spacewalk, scheduled for today, until Saturday, when instead of evaluating a torn solar array, he and Mission Specialist Scott Parazynski are expected to repair it.
Although he is far from the Army's usual field of operations, Col. Wheelock said, "it's just like a joint ops on the ground." He made the comment during a news teleconference Wednesday in which astronauts answered questions from reporters here at NASA headquarters, along with others in Florida, Texas, Paris and Moscow.
"Probably the most important thing I've learned up here is the importance of teamwork," Col. Wheelock said. "It was quite amazing yesterday when Scott and I were working outside and knew everyone was working real hard inside to get their tasks done, as well as dozens of people on the ground in Houston who were helping us come up with solutions to the problem."
The damaged array was part of the Port 6 truss installed during the duo's spacewalk Tuesday and it was designed to help provide power to the International Space Station.
Assisted by a robotic arm, the truss was moved to its permanent position during the spacewalk to enable the Columbus Laboratory from the European Space Agency and a Japanese experiment module laboratory to be attached to the space station during future missions.
The successful installation was quickly overshadowed as the panels unfolded and a tear appeared.
According to Station Commander Peggy Whitson, the angle of the sun made it difficult to see the tear at first, but all panel movement stopped once the crew discovered it.
Engineers in Houston are pouring over pictures of the array and according to a NASA status report, they believe a snagged guide wire may have caused the tear and the Discovery crew is configuring tools today to repair the tear.
Col. Wheelock and Dr. Parazynski will attempt to remove the snag Saturday and transfer the loads carried by the broken hinge by installing straps the crew is expected to build today.
Despite the challenges, which included finding a small hole in his gloves after returning from Tuesday's spacewalk, the mission has been exciting for Col. Wheelock. He said the views were breathtaking, although getting used to moving around in space was challenging because it was hard to relax enough to move freely.
"This is the ultimate high ground," Col. Wheelock said, "so I figure that this is the place for a Soldier to be."
The space shuttle Discovery is still scheduled to return to Earth Nov. 7. The fifth spacewalk that the shuttle crew was scheduled to conduct wil now be performed by the space station crew after the shuttle leaves.