Saturday, November 11, 2006

Extra-Vehicular Activity

Can you EVA? You know, float in space, go for a jaunt while weightless? Nope, I didn't think so...boy oh boy, I love my name to death! 'Specially when people say such swell things about me! Thanks NASA crew and I'll be thinking about you when I fall asleep too! ;)

Stefanyshyn-Piper, on the other hand, will be making her first spacewalk, or Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) in NASA parlance. In so doing, she will become only the seventh American woman to do an EVA. A Soviet woman walked in space in 1984.

So few women have gone on EVAs in part because the existing US space suits are too large for most women. The smallest available size is a medium, roughly equivalent to a men's medium T-shirt.

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But after four years of training, Tanner and others say she can now hold her own. "She is in my opinion one of the best that we have – flown or unflown," Tanner says. "I'd stack her against anybody, and you'll see her [on an EVA] again."

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This process requires an exceptional amount of back-and-forth communication and cooperation between the spacewalkers and ground controllers. "From my perspective, EVA 1 is probably the most choreographed between the ground and crew," says John McCullough, the station's lead flight director. "Once EVA 1 is complete, I'll feel a little bit better."

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MacLean, who will become the second Canadian to perform an EVA, said that the night before his first spacewalk will feel like Christmas Eve to a child. "There's no question I'll be thinking about [the EVA] as I fall asleep," MacLean says.

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So far, the orbiter appears to have survived launch without sustaining any major damage to its heat shield from ice or foam falling off its external fuel tank.

But should any damage be discovered, NASA could also attempt a repair on one of their spacewalks, using one of several experimental techniques tested on the past two shuttle flights (see Spacewalking astronauts testing heat shield repairs). Tanner would likely be on that EVA because of his extensive spacewalking experience.

- By Kelly Young for New Scientist

1 comment:

Tmoore said...

lol, yeah i think i remember saying that ;D