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Spacewalk hit by brief power outage, no danger

Though in no danger, astronauts lose camera views for 10-15 minutes

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U.S. astronaut Stephen Bowen works on the International Space Station during a spacewalk on Monday.

U.S. astronaut Stephen Bowen works on the International Space Station during a spacewalk on Monday.

Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A partial power outage at the International Space Station briefly interrupted Monday's spacewalk, knocking out robotic camera views of the two astronauts as they worked to install a spare antenna.

The outage happened two hours into the 71/2-hour spacewalk by Atlantis crewmen Garrett Reisman and Stephen Bowen. The space station's main command-and-control computer suddenly crashed. A backup computer kicked in, but power temporarily was lost to some equipment, including the video monitors being used by the robot arm operator, Piers Sellers.

Reisman was perched on the end of the space station's 58-foot robot arm when Sellers lost his camera views. Bowen was working with connectors on the space station's framework. The lead flight director later said that may have inadvertently contributed to the computer shutdown.

NASA said neither spacewalker was ever in any danger. In 10 to 15 minutes, everything was back to normal, although the backup computer remained in charge.

"Ah, much better," Sellers said when his camera views came back.

The spacewalkers then had to contend with a tough connector and refasten some bolts. A few hours later, the 6-foot dish antenna and its boom finally were installed on the space station. Bowen proudly shook the 14-foot structure. "It doesn't wobble anywhere," he reported.

A tiny gap remained between the dish and boom, however, and Mission Control had the astronauts strap the assembly down as engineers analyzed the situation. Locks on the antenna also were not removed, as an extra precaution.

Lead flight director Emily Nelson said she needs to know from the structural engineering team in the next day or two whether the antenna will need more work during an upcoming spacewalk. The astronauts also hooked up a storage platform for the station's Canadian-built robot, named Dextre, and loosened the bolts on six batteries that will be replaced on the next two spacewalks. They jokingly asked for more work as the spacewalk went into an hour of overtime.

"You guys might not be tired, but I'm done," said Dominic "Tony" Antonelli, who monitored everything from inside.

Reisman spent the entire spacewalk on the end of the robot arm, and enjoyed the ride.

"I'm way the heck up here now," Reisman called out from his perch. "I might only be about 5-foot-4, but right now, I think I'm the highest person around. Woooo!"

"Yeah, like you're two-thirds of the way up of being like a Hubble guy," replied astronaut Michael Good from inside the space station. Good worked on the Hubble Space Telescope last May in a considerably higher orbit.

Shuttle Atlantis and its crew of six delivered the antenna and other spare parts to the space station Sunday. NASA wants to stockpile as much equipment at the orbiting complex as possible before the shuttle program ends.

Only two more shuttle missions remain. For Atlantis, though, this is it.

NASA may add an extra chore to the second or third spacewalk coming up this week. A cable is snagged at the end of the shuttle's inspection boom. Mission managers said it should be a quick and easy job to free it. The problem prevented the shuttle crew from properly checking Atlantis over the weekend for launch damage.

Mission managers will wait before deciding whether the shuttle astronauts, while still at the station, must check the sections of the left wing and other areas that were missed in Saturday's survey.

The crew will take on another major objective Tuesday, attaching a new Russian-built compartment to the space station