Spacewalking astronauts installing new hand on station's robot arm
Astronauts perform first of three spacewalks Thursday
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla – Spacewalking astronauts are giving the International Space Station's big robot arm a new hand.
Commander Randy Bresnik and Mark Vande Hei (VAN-duh HI) floated out Thursday morning. It's the first of three NASA spacewalks planned over the next two weeks.
The latching mechanism on one end of the 58-foot robot arm malfunctioned in August. It needs to be replaced before an Orbital ATK supply ship launches in November.
This bundle of latches — more than three feet (a meter) long — is used to grab visiting spacecraft. It also attaches to grapple fixtures outside the space station. That way, the arm can move like an inchworm across the sprawling structure.
The Canadian-built arm has been in orbit for 16 years. Engineers attribute the recent trouble to wear and tear.
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