28 March 2007

Extended space-station visit for Williams

It seems astronaut Sunita Williams (CDR, USN) is going to be staying up on the International Space Station a bit longer than planned.

From Gainesville.com:
Astronaut Sunita Williams is stuck in space - at least temporarily.

She flew up to the International Space Station last December planning to come home in early July after a seven-month stay.

When she comes back now will be a bit later than she planned.

The problem is that a hail storm that damaged the fuel tank of the space shuttle Atlantis has knocked NASA's flight schedule for the year out of whack.

CBC News (which has a nice picture of Williams doing a spacewalk*) adds this:
"This constitutes the worst damage from hail that we have seen on external tank foam," Wayne Hale, the manager of the space shuttle program, said in a written statement after the storm damage was assessed.

He said the damage was concentrated on the upper third of the enormous external tank, a section that holds liquid oxygen propellant. The shuttle had to be removed from the launch pad so that technicians could make the necessary repairs.

It will be a record-breaking stay - at least for American astronauts. USA Today says:
During her longer stay in space, Williams is expected to break the U.S. record for continuous time in space. Her current crew mate, Michael Lopez-Alegria, will set that record when he returns to Earth on April 20 in a Russian Soyuz vehicle with 214 days in space.

The longest stay in space was 437 days by Russian Valeri Polyakov.

In other space-related news, the Russian news agency Interfax has reported that the Progress M-58 cargo carrier, which docked with the International Space Station (ISS) last autumn, has been dumped into the Pacific Ocean approximately 3,000 km east of Wellington, New Zealand.

* Do they still call it an EVA when it's at the station?

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