Astronauts complete final spacewalk


Discovery's astronauts have taken one final spacewalk at the International Space Station before the US shuttle programme ends (AP)

Discovery’s astronauts have taken one final spacewalk at the International Space Station to get the outpost squared away before the US shuttle programme ends.

Discovery is heading into retirement after this flight, and only two more shuttle trips remain – by Endeavour and then Atlantis.

Spacewalker Alvin Drew quickly headed to a broken pump and drained the last bit of ammonia left to make it safe for handling in case it is returned to Earth on the last shuttle mission this summer.

The toxic ammonia coolant – weighing about 10lb – was vented through a hose out to open space, away from the two spacewalkers.

A few pieces of frozen ammonia appeared to float away and Mission Control asked if astronaut Stephen Bowen encountered any of the bits of ice, and he replied that he had not. Controllers wanted to keep any ammonia residue from getting into the space station.

The two spacewalkers whittled down the entire to-do list, installing a light and a camera on an outdoor robot. They also removed an experiment platform and some insulation to leave the orbiting lab in the best possible condition once space shuttles stop flying.

They paused to take pictures of Nasa’s launch site, as the shuttle-station complex sailed 220 miles above Cape Canaveral.

Flight director Royce Renfrew was thrilled with how well things went, and told reporters: “I feel happy and contented. All of our big objectives for the mission have been accomplished.”

Discovery will remain at the space station until Sunday, with the astronauts staying an extra day to help outfit the new storage room installed earlier in the week. There is a also possibility that another bonus day may be added, which would stretch the mission to 13 days.

Once Discovery returns to Earth next week, it will be decommissioned and sent to the Smithsonian Institution for display.

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