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NASA Astronauts Prepare for Second Space Walk on International Space Station

Aired February 12, 2001 - 10:44 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're showing you pictures now live from the beyond the Earth's atmosphere. The space shuttle Atlantis, the astronauts are preparing for the mission's second space walk. They are going to be doing some work outside the newly-installed Destiny lab on the International Space Station.

And our space correspondent Miles O'Brien doing double duty today, joining us now from Laurel, Maryland with more -- Miles, bringing new meaning to do a little bit of work outside. When you are a space shuttle astronaut, it takes a little bit more than, let's say you're painting a house.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: That is right. Make sure you are well dressed for the occasion, Daryn, when you are out there, because if not, you'll be in a very bad way very quickly.

Let's take a look at some live pictures brought down from the space shuttle Atlantis, attached to the International Space Station. This camera that you see right here is attached to the shuttle's robotic arm right at the elbow. And at the end of the arm there -- as you see it kind of descend down, sort of the middle-lower part of the screen -- is an item they call the pressurized mating adaptor.

It's a docking port which had to be moved out of its spot in order to make way for the $1.4 billion Destiny science lab, which was attached to that same spot. One of the big things to do today is to put it at the end of Destiny, because that docking port you see right there on the screen will be the future docking location for future shuttle missions. And a lot of shuttle missions are planned for this International Space Station project.

And one of the ones that happened back in September -- which was a crucial one in and of itself -- was -- as we look at some pictures, by the way, of suit-up. That is the space walker Tom Jones to the left; in the middle, the pilot Mark Polanksy -- they call him Roman -- helping him get ready -- to the right, the empty suit that would contain shortly thereafter is Bob Curbeam, his spacewalking partner. They are in the airlock right now. The depressurization is occurring.

These pictures are not live as we speak right now. And let's talk -- bring in Ed Lu. Ed Lu is a NASA astronaut who, in September, conducted a space walk outside the International Space Station, did the first space walk in a U.S. suit, with a Russian compadre. Ed, thanks for being with us.

EDWARD TSANG LU, NASA ASTRONAUT: Good morning, Miles. How you doing?

O'BRIEN: Oh, very well.

Just what is going though the mind of a spacewalker at this moment, aside from the obvious: I hope there is not a leak?


LU: Yes. Well, besides that, mostly what are you thinking about is everything that you have got to do. So you are trying to go through it one last time, even though you have done it -- gone through it 100 times in the pool and in your mind beforehand. But you want to make sure that you think ahead of everything that you are going do and plan it all out before you go and do it.

O'BRIEN: You know, what is interesting to me is the amount of training that you do. And I know that it's about 10 hours in the so- called neutral buoyancy facility -- or the big swimming pool Houston people for the lay people -- to give you an opportunity to train for this. You do about 10 hours for every one hour in space. And yet you still go through a very careful checklist. You know this by rote. But why do they still have to go through that checklist?

LU: Well, it's one those things where, if you miss a step, it can kill you. So you've got to be extra careful with these things because it's pretty unforgiving out there. There's -- if you -- if something is misconfigured on your suit, things could get really bad really fast.

O'BRIEN: All right, now, tell us a bit about the importance of this Destiny science lab that was successfully attached over the weekend. Put that into perspective when you consider this huge, $100 billion project, 15-year lifespan, five-year build-out. This one piece is important, isn't it?

LU: That is correct. It's pretty much the central unit for the entire space station, in that most of the computer and most of the commanding and the life-support system goes through this one module. So this is the real piece on which all the other pieces are really run off of.

O'BRIEN: All right. Now, as for today's space walk -- as we look at that pressurized mating adaptor, that docking port -- the key thing here will be, Tom Jones and Bob Curbeam will be connecting some of those cables you see on the exterior there, right? Why don't you walks us through that a little bit.

LU: Actually, what they are first going to do is they are going to be disattach it from where it is. It is just sort of temporarily stowed right were. As you had mentioned earlier, it needs to be moved to the other end right now of the Destiny lab. And that's where future shuttles are going to dock. So they are going to have to disattach it first. Then the arm will remove it over and then it will be reattached at the far end of Destiny.

(CROSSTALK) O'BRIEN: I am sorry. Astronaut Marsha Ivins will be operating that arm. She won't be able to see this with her eyes. They will be helping her guide that docking module in.

LU: That is correct. And she will also be using a series of cameras like the one that we are looking through right now. And...

O'BRIEN: All right.

LU: And then the two astronauts will be using their own eyes outside and just talking her through it also as a -- but, besides that, she will have a whole series of cameras to look through.

O'BRIEN: All right, sort of like mombacks (ph). All right, Ed Lu, astronaut, joining in his office from Houston, giving us some insights into what is going on in low Earth orbit now, as the construction of that space station continues. We are watching that. And we are watching the descent of Mir, which is -- should be under way as we speak. We are waiting back for some confirmation on that.

We'll get that to you as soon as we know -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Miles, thank you very much. Interesting stuff today. Thank you.



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