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Spacewalks Provide Information Needed to Build Space Station With PM-Space Shuttle, Bjt

April 9, 1991

SPACE CENTER, Houston (AP) _ The Atlantis astronauts’ spacewalking adventures will provide the first hard data from orbit about building a space station, NASA managers say.

Jerry Ross and Jay Apt went on a six-hour spacewalk Monday to test tools and compare ways of moving astronauts and loads around.

The two also made an emergency spacewalk Sunday to fix a stuck antenna on the $617 million Gamma Ray Observatory. Afterward, they conducted a few space station tests before going back inside the shuttle.

″We’re extremely pleased,″ said Ed Whitsett, a manager in NASA’s automatic and robotics division. ″We got what we wanted and that was to get data on each concept. We want to learn how fast the crew will be able to travel and how strong the structures will have to be.″

Building techniques in orbit were also demonstrated during what had been the most recent American spacewalk, in 1985. Afterward, the astronauts gave engineers reports of what they experienced, said Whitsett.

But this time, some of the equipment was monitored with instruments, and cameras recorded the spacewalks.

″This is the first time we’ve gotten hard data,″ said Jim O’Kane, a hardware development manager at the Johnson Space Center. ″I feel the evaluation went extremely well.″

In one test, the astronauts took turns riding in three kinds of carts along 47 feet of track attached to the cargo bay. Carts will be needed to assemble the space station, a permanently manned laboratory NASA hopes to start building in 1995.

The test also provided some good experience for engineers and ground controllers who will work on future spacewalks, NASA said.

There are two planned repair jobs that will require spacewalks. One in 1992 involves a stranded communications satellite. The other, in 1993, is designed to fix the nearsighted Hubble Space Telescope.

NASA also plans one spacewalk a year in preparation for the space station.

″It was a very good exercise for the ground,″ Whitsett said. ″Everybody feels a lot more confident about conducting EVAs.″

EVA, or extravehicular activity, is NASA-talk for a spacewalk.

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