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Ready for spacewalk No. 2

by Marcia Dunn
| April 11, 2010 9:00 PM

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Two of the astronauts aboard the orbiting shuttle-station complex rested up Saturday for a second spacewalk involving hefty storage tanks, while their colleagues unloaded much smaller supplies. Spacemen Clayton Anderson and Rick Mastracchio will head back outside early today to replace an old ammonia tank at the International Space Station. They started the job Friday. In all, three spacewalks will be needed to complete the work.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Two of the astronauts aboard the orbiting shuttle-station complex rested up Saturday for a second spacewalk involving hefty storage tanks, while their colleagues unloaded much smaller supplies.

Spacemen Clayton Anderson and Rick Mastracchio will head back outside early today to replace an old ammonia tank at the International Space Station. They started the job Friday. In all, three spacewalks will be needed to complete the work.

The ammonia tanks - part of the space station's cooling system - are the size of refrigerators.

In an interview Saturday, Anderson said one day is enough time to rest between spacewalks. He said he often played baseball doubleheaders and basketball games on back-to-back days.

"We're in pretty good shape for old men," he said, "and I think we'll be ready to rock 'n' roll."

Anderson is 51, and Mastracchio is 50.

Both are members of space shuttle Discovery's visiting crew. They have another week at the space station before departing.

Discovery arrived Wednesday with tons of spare parts and science experiments for the space station. Much of that was in a cargo carrier that was attached temporarily to the station. One of the big-ticket items being transported Saturday was a darkroom-type enclosure for the U.S. lab's high-quality window, designed to improve picture-taking.

The moving operation was interrupted early Saturday when a smoke alarm went off in the Russian living quarters. The seven shuttle astronauts rushed to their ship, and the six station residents gathered near their Russian Soyuz return capsules as per emergency procedures. Within two or three minutes, it was evident it had been a false alarm and the two crews went back to what they were doing.

The alarm was set off by dust kicked up while the crew was cleaning filters, said flight director Ron Spencer.

Like many at NASA, the astronauts in orbit are anxiously awaiting President Barack Obama's upcoming space policy speech. Obama will visit Kennedy Space Center on Thursday and discuss the future of NASA's human spaceflight program.

In February, Obama canceled NASA's effort to return astronauts to the moon and placed added emphasis on the development of new technologies. He also extended the working life of the space station to 2020.

Only three shuttle missions remain after this one. When the fleet is retired this fall, the space station essentially will be complete. Thousands of jobs will be lost when that happens, many of them at Florida's shuttle launch and landing site.

"Life is full of changes, and change is hard," Anderson said. "We'll just have to see how it all falls out."

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