Spacewalking astronauts pull off urgent station repairs

In this NASA provided frame from video, NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson, left, and Jack Fischer go out on a spacewalk to make repairs outside the International Space Station on Tuesday. (NASA via AP)
Updated 23 May 2017
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Spacewalking astronauts pull off urgent station repairs

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: Spacewalking astronauts completed urgent repairs at the International Space Station on Tuesday, replacing equipment that failed three days earlier and restoring a backup for a vital data-relay system.
It took commander Peggy Whitson much longer than expected to install the spare unit. Success finally came after her spacewalking partner, Jack Fischer, blasted the area with nitrogen gas to clear away flecks of metal.
Mission Control noted that the failure occurred only 2 days, 21 hours, 38 minutes earlier, “and we are already back in a good position, so excellent work. “
Testing confirmed the new unit worked, restoring full redundancy to the system that operates the space station’s solar panels, radiators and robotic equipment.
“Very good. We are really happy about that,” Whitson said.
Tuesday’s spacewalk lasted less than three hours — exceedingly short by NASA standards. Whitson has now tied the record for most spacewalks by an American — 10 — and moved up to third place on the all-time spacewalking list.
The failed data-relay unit — recently refurbished with upgraded software — was just installed in March. Even though a second unit worked just fine after Saturday’s breakdown, NASA scrambled to put together a spacewalk so there would be a backup in case that second unit failed, too, crippling the system for station cooling and solar energy production.
Whitson had no trouble removing the broken unit. But it took her two tries to install the replacement.
During the first attempt, Whitson discovered what appeared to be metal shavings in the holes for the bolts. Fischer used a cleaning tool — essentially a nitrogen gas blaster — and blew away debris from the three holes.
“I think all three look clean as a whistle,” he reported before Whitson bolted down the spare box.
The data-relay boxes are officially known as MDMs or multiplexer-demultiplexers. They’re compact: Each one weighs 50 pounds (22 kilograms) and measures 14 by 8 by 13 inches (35-20-33 centimeters.)
Whitson and Fischer were just out spacewalking on May 12. That excursion was cut short by leaking station equipment, leaving two antenna installations undone. So Fischer completed the chore Tuesday.
It was only the second spacewalk for Fischer, a rookie astronaut who arrived at the orbiting lab last month. He marveled at the world 250 miles (400 kilometers) below as he worked, commenting, “Oh my gosh, it’s so beautiful.”
“What’s more awesome than being on @Space_Station? Getting a call from mission control 4 another spacewalk! Dancing w/ the cosmos,” he said in a tweet before going out.
Whitson, the world’s most experienced female astronaut, is more than halfway through an extended 9 ½-month mission, her third spaceflight. She’s spent more time off the planet than any other American and, at age 57, is the oldest woman to ever fly in space. Tuesday’s excursion gave her 60 hours out in the vacuum, behind only Russia’s Anatoly Solovyev, with 78 hours over 16 spacewalks, and fellow American 10-time spacewalker Michael Lopez-Alegria, with more than 67 hours over 10 trips.
The space station also is home to two Russians and a Frenchman.


British PM Theresa May resigns over Brexit failure

Updated 12 min 28 sec ago
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British PM Theresa May resigns over Brexit failure

  • She will resign as Conservative Party leader on June 7 with a leadership contest in the following week
  • She endured crises and humiliation in her effort to find a compromise Brexit deal that parliament could ratify

LONDON:  British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Friday she would quit, triggering a contest that will bring a new leader to power who is likely to push for a more decisive Brexit divorce deal.

May set out a timetable for her departure — she will resign as Conservative Party leader on June 7 with a leadership contest beginning the following week.

“I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist party on Friday, 7th June so that a successor can be chosen,” May said outside 10 Downing Street.

With her voice breaking up with emotion, May, who endured crises and humiliation in her effort to find a compromise Brexit deal that parliament could ratify, said she bore no ill will.

“I will shortly leave the job that has been the honor of my life to hold,” May said. “The second female prime minister, but certainly not the last.”

“I do so with no ill will but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love,” May said.

May, once a reluctant supporter of EU membership, who won the top job in the turmoil that followed the 2016 Brexit vote, steps down with her central pledges — to lead the United Kingdom out of the bloc and heal its divisions — unfulfilled.

May bequeaths a deeply divided country and a political elite that is deadlocked over how, when or whether to leave the EU. She said her successor would need to find a consensus in parliament on Brexit.

May’s departure will deepen the Brexit crisis as a new leader is likely to want a more decisive split, raising the chances of a confrontation with the European Union and a snap parliamentary election.

The leading contenders to succeed May all want a tougher divorce deal, although the EU has said it will not renegotiate the Withdrawal Treaty it sealed in November.

Meanwhile, the EU will not offer whoever takes over as British prime minister a better Brexit deal, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Friday.

“From my perspective, I don’t see the European Union offering any new prime minister a better or very different deal to what was on offer to Theresa May,” Coveney told Ireland’s Newstalk radio station after May on Friday said she would quit.

“This idea that a new prime minister will be a tougher negotiator and will put it up to the EU and get a much better deal for Britain? That’s not how the EU works.”