NASA: Robotic work station fails during spacewalk

Robotics glitch hits as Discovery astronauts work outside space station

The central command post for the International Space Station's robotics work failed Monday during the first spacewalk of the shuttle Discovery's final space mission.

NASA astronauts Steve Bowen and Alvin Drew had just completed the first task of the spacewalk on Monday when the robotic work station in the space station's new seven-window cupola stopped working, according to NASA.

Astronauts Scott Kelly and Mike Barratt had been running the station's robotic arm to help the spacewalkers install an extension to a power cable.

Instead of waiting about 30 minutes to reboot the work station in the new cupola, the astronauts manning the robotic arm switched to a different robotic work station inside the space station.

The spacewalkers will need the robotic arm as they work to move an 800-pound failed pump module to an external platform where it will wait for a ride back to Earth on another mission. Bowen and Drew, who is the 200th astronaut to perform a spacewalk, also are scheduled to install a camera wedge on an external truss and affix two extensions to the transporter track along the truss, enabling the transporter to travel the entire length of what basically is the station's backbone.

NASA's space shuttle Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center on its 39th and final mission late Thursday afternoon. Discovery, which has had more space flights than any other shuttle, carried six astronauts, a humanoid robot called Robonaut 2, spare parts for the space station and several scientific experiments.

The cupola that houses the faulty robotic work station was installed in the space station last February. With seven windows, the unit was designed to give astronauts a wider view of the outside work as they manipulated the robotic arms from inside.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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