Two spacewalking astronauts installed a new fully loaded tank of space station coolant as a large piece of orbiting junk headed their way, just far enough away to pose no concern.
The old rocket part was expected to pass within three kilometres of the shuttle-station complex late today morning, considered a safe distance by NASA specialists. Managers decided there was no need to move the linked spacecraft out of the way and proceeded with the spacewalk as planned.
It was the second spacewalk in three days for the Discovery and space station crews.
Despite a late start because of minor spacesuit problems, Danny Olivas and Christer Fuglesang, a Swede, quickly accomplished their main objective. They collected the new ammonia tank from Discovery, bolted it onto the space station, then hooked up all the electrical and fluid lines. Mission Control praised their effort.
The old tank, launched seven years ago, was removed during Tuesday night’s spacewalk. Olivas and Fuglesang anchored it inside Discovery for next week’s return to Earth.
The tanks are big and awkward for spacewalkers to handle: nearly 1 1/2 meters long, 2 meters wide and 1.2 meters high. The new one weighs 770 kilograms.