SPACE CENTER, Houston - A spacewalking duo drifted out of space shuttle Discovery on Monday to help install a docking port on the international space station.
It was the second spacewalk in as many days for the shuttle crew. Altogether, four spacewalks are planned for this space station construction mission.
Astronauts Jeff Wisoff and Michael Lopez-Alegria floated out to the sound of music from an Austin Powers movie, a favorite of the crew. Their crewmates played the recording to pep up the spacewalkers. "That was awesome," Wisoff said.
The spacewalkers' first task was to release the 16 bolts that secured the new docking port in Discovery's cargo bay.
Once the docking port was loose, shuttle robot arm operator Koichi Wakata was to lift the 2,700-pound structure to the bottom of the 140-foot space station jutting out of the cargo bay. Because of the tight clearances, Wisoff and Lopez-Alegria were needed to help guide it in to its berth on the station.
The spacewalkers also had to connect a multitude of cables during the planned 6´-hour spacewalk, between the docking port and the space station's Unity module.
Bill McArthur and Leroy Chiao kicked off the four days of exterior work Sunday, spending six hours working on the aluminum framework that was installed on the station the day before. Their excitement, particularly that of spacewalk rookie McArthur, streamed through the radio lines as they toiled 240 miles up.
"Woo-hoo!" McArthur shouted again and again. "This is too cool."
McArthur performed his chores while strapped to the end of Discovery's 50-foot robot arm.
"I was wondering what it was going to be like being out on the end of the arm, not being able to see the shuttle," he said. "It's a strange feeling. My toes are curling right up."
To NASA's disappointment, hardly any of the spacewalking work was seen on Earth - either Sunday or Monday.
An antenna failure aboard Discovery has prevented the crew of seven from beaming down live, continuous video since Thursday. The astronauts have had to use a slower shuttle antenna to relay staggered snapshots and occasional snippets of video.
Astronauts have never attempted four spacewalks before on a space station mission. The most spacewalks conducted on a single shuttle flight is five; that was for critical repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope.
During the next six years, astronauts and cosmonauts will have to perform nearly 160 spacewalks to assemble the international space station, an awesome challenge even by NASA standards. By comparison, only 52 spacewalks have been conducted in almost 20 years of space shuttle flight - including Monday's.
Lopez-Alegria made his first spacewalk on Monday. This was the second spacewalk for Wisoff.