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When the crew of Shuttle Discovery left for space on Tuesday, October 23rd, they knew that their work at the International Space Station was going to be challenging. However, they could have never anticipated (expected), the unexpected challenge they had to overcome. Read on for Discovery's adventure in Space.
Discovery was sent to space with two missions. The first one was to deliver a new room, the "Harmony Module"(unit), to the International Space Station. The second mission was to relocate a 35,000-pound solar array (a group of solar units which power the International Space Station).
The crew knew that the two missions would require three spacewalks. Two additional walks were also scheduled, one to test some repair techniques (methods) and the other to prepare the space station for the December visit of Shuttle Atlantis.
The first three spacewalks went smoothly, with the astronauts able to relocate the solar arrays as planned. However, two problems occurred then, causing the astronauts to change their entire schedule. The first was minor. One of the solar panel joints was grinding (crushing) itself down. This will be repaired next year.
The second problem is what changed plans for the well-planned mission completely. When the astronauts opened the newly relocated solar array, a wire caught on the hinges of a folded panel and created two holes in the 110 ft long wing of the array. A damaged solar panel would impact the power supply of the International Space Station, and thus had to be repaired as soon as possible.
Spacewalker, Scott Parazynski, a medical doctor by profession, spent more than four hours attached to the end of a 90ft robotically-operated boom (see picture below), knitting together the damaged solar panels. The biggest danger Scott faced was that of electrocution (bad electric shock), from the high electricity being generated by the solar wings. He repaired the wing with a hockey stick-like tool, wrapped with insulating tape.
He said he had never experienced anything like this before. In fact no astronaut had ever been so far away from the safety of the space station prior to this. What kept him brave that day? He said it was the wake-up music from the theme of the movie "Star Wars" that had been beamed (sent) up to him by his ten-year old son Luke. The space shuttle landed safely in Florida on Wednesday, November 7th.