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Lost tool bag forces changes to mission spacewalks

In this image from NASA TV mission specialists Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper (front) and Steve Bowen work in the air lock aboard the International Space Station on Monday. On Tuesday, Stefanyshyn-Piper lost a tool bag in space, throwing a wrench into the mission’s repair plans.

AP Photo Courtesy of NASA TV

Houston – Flight controllers were revamping plans Wednesday for the remaining spacewalks during space shuttle Endeavour’s visit to the international space station, after a crucial tool bag floated away during repair work.
Meanwhile, more than 200 miles above Earth, astronauts started hooking up the new space station equipment delivered by Endeavour, primarily a new recycling system that will convert urine, sweat and wash water into drinking water.
The briefcase-sized tool bag drifted away from astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper on Tuesday as she cleaned and lubed a gummed-up joint on a wing of solar panels on the space station.
She and fellow astronaut Stephen Bowen were midway through the first of four spacewalks when the bag was lost. As Stefanyshyn-Piper cleaned up grease that seeped from a gun used to lubricate the joint, the tool case became untethered and floated away.
“What it boils down to is all it takes is one small mistake for a tether not to be hooked up quite correctly or to slip off, and that’s what happened here,” said lead spacewalk officer John Ray.
Stefanyshyn-Piper and Bowen finished the spacewalk in almost seven hours by sharing tools from Bowen’s bag.
“Despite my little hiccup, or major hiccup, I think we did a good job out there,” Stefanyshyn-Piper said.
Officials weren’t worried the bag would hit the space station or the docked space shuttle because by late Tuesday it already was 2½ miles in front of the orbiting complex, said flight director Ginger Kerrick.
The new equipment also includes an extra bathroom, kitchenette, two bedrooms, an exercise machine and refrigerator that will allow space station residents to enjoy cold drinks for the first time. And the extra gear will allow the space station’s crew to double to six next year.

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