Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dangerous Spacewalks in Progress

So far, so good. The Hubble repair mission of STS-125 on board Shuttle Atlantis has proceeded well. The astronauts have so far completed a difficult rendezvous and docking sequence with the telescope and have performed two excellent spacewalk missions to replace an important camera assembly and gyroscopes repair. Today on the third of five spacewalks the astronauts are installing the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and repair work on the Advanced Camera for Surveys. 

Many people are unaware of some of the dangers faced during these spacewalks. Sure, it's a dangerous space environment, but the very nature of the process involved in the repair work is also a bit of a problem. Many of the repair procedures were never planned on, and there are many sharp edges and pieces inside the Hubble assembly. These could pose a risk of cutting and opening the gloves and arms of the spacesuits worn by the astronauts. Previous repair efforts demonstrated not only abrasions but also small cuts in the suits. Astronauts have been carefully trained over the last couple of years on how to avoid these accidents as much as possible. Good luck to 'em.

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