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Glitch makes NASA cut short Endeavour spacewalk
HOUSTON – NASA managers cut short Friday's spacewalk by two Endeavour astronauts because one of their carbon dioxide sensors stopped working.
The astronauts were nearly five hours into a routine planned six-and-a-half hour spacewalk at the International Space Station when mission controllers noticed that Gregory Chamitoff's spacesuit sensor wasn't working. NASA needs to know if levels of carbon dioxide — expelled when you breathe — get too high.
The levels were probably not too high, but the decision was made because of the lack of information. Chamitoff and spacewalking partner Drew Feustel were about to start a 45-minute task to finish installing an antenna on the space station, but controllers figured that would take too much time. They started clean-up tasks instead.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
HOUSTON (AP) — Drew Feustel and Gregory Chamitoff spent early Friday puttering around with routine chores — installing a light fixture here, covering something there, picking some stuff up. The only thing unique was the location: outside the International Space Station.
The two Endeavour astronauts started their six-and-a-half hour spacewalk at 3:10 a.m. EDT Friday and it was going without a hitch and free of drama. They have already retrieved one experiment — the space equivalent of a test of paint durability — and will pick up one more.
NASA officials said this spacewalk is supposed to be as routine as they get for what is always a risky task of strolling outside in space. In addition to retrieving the two experiments outside the station, the astronauts will install one new experiment and do some preparations for a tougher task later in the mission.
Unlike other spacewalks, when the tasks were so tough their labored breathing could be heard on the radio, Chamitoff and Feustel didn't sound like they were out of breath.
This is the first spacewalk for Chamitoff. He called it "a dream come true for me."
Endeavour's astronauts will spacewalk four times.
This is Endeavour's last flight. Endeavour's day started with a wake-up song written by two Kennedy Space Center employees, Dan Keenan and Kenny McLaughlin. The song is called "We All Do What We Can Do" and honors workers who prepare the shuttles for launch.
On Thursday, the shuttle's astronauts accomplished their main job: installing on the station a $2 billion physics experiment that looks for antimatter and dark matter. On Saturday, the two crews will get an unprecedented VIP call — Pope Benedict XVI will make the first papal call to space. Two Italians are on board.
After a planned 16-day mission, Endeavour is scheduled to land June 1. NASA is shutting down its shuttle program this summer after 30 years, to focus on interplanetary travel. One more mission remains, by shuttle Atlantis in July, to carry up one last load of supplies and equipment..