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Astronauts prepare for third spacewalk

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October 18, 2000 


SPACE CENTER (AP) - A pair of astronauts floated outside space shuttle Discovery on Tuesday for a third straight day of spacewalking work on the expanding international space station.

"Woo-hoo!" spacewalker Bill McArthur shouted just before going out the hatch. He yelled the same thing, repeatedly, during his work outside on Sunday.

McArthur and Leroy Chiao planned to put in a pair of power converters, connect a few final cables and mount a toolbox to the space station segment they helped installed during an earlier spacewalk.

On Tuesday's spacewalk, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, the shuttle robot arm operator, had the difficult challenge of ferrying Chiao from the shuttle cargo bay to the newly installed space station truss, called the Z1.

"Koichi's going to thread the needle on this one and stick Leroy, on the end of the arm, between the edge of the payload bay and underneath the Z1," McArthur said.

Chiao and McArthur's first task was to release one of the converters, stored on the wall of the cargo bay. Once Wakata had lifted Chiao and the converter up to the truss, the spacewalkers were to align the device and bolt it down before repeating the drill with the second converter.

The two were also to install a second toolbox, like the one they bolted onto the station Sunday, and connect a few more cables onto the boxlike truss and the station's new docking port.

The other pair of spacewalkers on Discovery, astronauts Jeff Wisoff and Michael Lopez-Alegria, helped guide the docking port into place during the mission's second spacewalk Monday.

Their seven-hour spacewalk started rocky when Wisoff and Lopez-Alegria's power drills wouldn't loosen the four latches holding down the docking port in Discovery's cargo bay.

"Who's scripting this, anyway?" one of them asked.

To free the latches, the duo cranked up the torque on their drills. Wakata then lifted the 2,700-pound (1,215-kilogram) port up to the station on the end of the shuttle's 50-foot (15-meter) arm, and Lopez-Alegria and Wisoff called out verbal instructions to help Wakata push it into place.

The docking port will be used by space shuttle Endeavour when it delivers huge solar panels in December and by Atlantis when it carries up the American lab Destiny in January.

Lopez-Alegria and Wisoff have a fourth and final spacewalk ahead of them Wednesday, two days before Discovery is to leave the space station. If all goes well, the next crew to dock will be the station's first residents.

Their planned Oct. 30 launch aboard a Russian rocket from Kazakstan could be delayed a couple days, but mission managers won't know the exact launch date until Discovery completes all of its station-raising maneuvers, said flight director Chuck Shaw.

"I guess it's stay tuned for the actual launch date for that mission," Shaw said.

Discovery's pilots fired the shuttle thrusters Monday and boosted the station into a slightly higher orbit; two more lifts are planned.

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