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Wed, Nov 19, 2008

STS-126 Crew Completes First Of Four Spacewalks

But Keep An Eye Out For A Missing Tool Bag...

The first spacewalk of the STS-126 mission is in the books... but it wasn't without some drama.

Mission specialists Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper and Steve Bowen reentered the station at 8:01 pm EST Tuesday, following a 6-hour, 52-minute EVA. NASA reports the astronauts completed all planned tasks on the first of four planned spacewalks, and also worked on some get-ahead tasks -- including the replacement of a nitrogen tank assembly, assorted station assembly tasks, and the start of cleaning and lubrication of the starboard solar alpha rotary joint (SARJ).

Inside the station, STS-126 mission specialist Don Pettit and Expedition 18 flight engineer Sandra Magnus operated the station's robotic arm, and mission specialist Shane Kimbrough served as the intravehicular officer, or spacewalk coordinator.

Though the spacewalk was an overall success, not everything went according to plan -- particularly for Stefanyshyn-Piper. When she discovered that a grease gun inside her tool bag had leaked, she attempted to clean the lubricant from the tools inside... but then lost her grip on the bag itself, leaving her little choice but to watch it float away.

Fortunately, the astronaut was able to share tools with Bowen, and both completed their initial service work on the SARJ. Meanwhile, NASA controllers are tracking the errant tool bag... which they say is gradually floating away from the station's orbital track.

Still, anchor Brian Williams of the 'NBC Nightly News' had some helpful advice. "If you're out taking a walk tonight and you find some grease guns or clean wipes, you're urged to call NASA. They'd love to get it back."

FMI: www.nasa.gov

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