Space Station Nears Completion

Astronauts on the shuttle discovery will conduct a space walk tomorrow to install a solar array panel on the International Space Station. It's the first of three spacewalks for this mission. Laurie Johnson reports.

The fourth and final solar array wing panel is about to be installed on the International Space Station.

It requires three spacewalks during this mission. NASA Spokesman William Jeffs says spacewalks are never routine and astronauts spend seven hours practicing for every one hour walking in space.

"So for a roughly seven hour spacewalk, they will have spent almost 50 hours training for that spacewalk in the neutral buoyancy laboratory here in Houston, which is a very large swimming pool that we use for spacewalk training. It has mock-ups of the International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope in it."

The new solar wings are the final step to bring the ISS up to full power.

"Now that we are finally bringing up this final pair of solar arrays, we are getting toward the end of completion of the International Space Station. Of course the space shuttle has been used largely to bring up these massive components and the shuttle will be retired in September of 2010. We're getting to the point now where we will be able to conduct the science in a full suite of experiments in all the labs in the space station."

Shuttle Discovery will undock from the space station on March 25th and is scheduled to land March 28th. The next shuttle mission is a servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope in May.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.  


photograph of solar array

A 115-foot Solar Array Wing extends from the International Space Station as it orbits 220 miles above Earth. This photo shows a portion of the wing's 32,800 solar cells that produce 32 kilowatts of electricity — enough to power 16 homes.

Photo and caption courtesy of NASA.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...