First Spacewalk Wraps Up, and a New One’s Added

New solar array wings wait to be fully unfurled. Image credit: NASAAstronauts Jim Reilly and Danny Olivas spent a good portion of their Monday evening out in space, beginning the installation of the International Space Station’s new solar arrays.

The spacewalk started at 2008 UTC (4:08 pm EDT), and ended 6.5 hours later. During their time outside the station, the duo performed a series of tasks to activate the new Starboard 3 and 4 (S3/S4) segment delivered by the space shuttle Atlantis. This included making power, data, and cooling connections between the station and the new segment. They also released locks and restraints on the solar arrays, enabling their deployment today.

NASA has also decided to extend the current mission of Atlantis, giving the astronauts an additional 2 days to do a new spacewalk to repair some minor damage to its heat shield. During this fourth and final spacewalk, the astronauts will tuck a protective thermal blanket back into position. Although NASA doesn’t consider this to be a huge risk, they’re not taking any chances after the catastrophic loss of Columbia.

Original Source: NASA Status Report