Nasa cuts short Endeavour spacewalk

Astronomy glitch

The astronauts were nearly five hours into a 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. The astronauts agreed.

Instead the duo started nearly an hour’s worth of clean-up and other tasks, such as retrieving bags. The spacewalk lasted six hours and 19 minutes, just 11 minutes shy of the scheduled time. Astronauts said the spacewalk was a success despite the small shortening. “Really happy how it worked out today,” Chamitoff said.

This was the first of four spacewalks to get the outpost ready for operations after the shuttles are retired this summer. Feustel and Chamitoff had already installed a light fixture, swapped out some experiments parked outside the space station and were in the middle of a lengthy task of installing the antenna—getting to the point where they had to remove a shield—when the glitch on the spacesuit was noticed and work was halted.

Nasa officials said this spacewalk was supposed to be as routine as they get for what is always a risky task of strolling outside in space. Unlike other spacewalks, when the tasks were so tough their laboured breathing could be heard on the radio, Chamitoff and Feustel didn’t sound like they were out of breath.

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