From: Reuters
Published March 18, 2008 02:02 AM

Spacewalk complete as "Dextre" tools up

By Ed Stoddard and Irene Klotz

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Dextre the handyman space robot now has the tools of his trade and is ready for work.

Astronauts from the shuttle Endeavour outfitted the International Space Station's newly installed robotic maintenance man with tools and cameras during a spacewalk that ended early on Tuesday.

Veteran spacewalker Richard Linnehan and rookie Robert Behnken were back in the station after an outing of almost seven hours.

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"It's a pretty awesome view just looking down on everything," Linnehan commented at one point as the duo floated in space over 200 miles above the planet.

It was the third of five spacewalks scheduled for Endeavour's busy 12-day visit to the orbital outpost.

It was not all smooth sailing.

The astronauts battled to secure a science experiment outside of Europe's Columbus laboratory and in the end took it back to the shuttle's payload bay.

The Canadian-built robot, dubbed Dextre, was assembled during the mission's second spacewalk. It resembles a humanoid stick figure with gangly 11-foot (3.4 meter) arms.

NASA says it will save astronauts from much of the routine maintenance they currently do on arduous and potentially dangerous spacewalks, enabling them to devote more time to the experiments and other scientific activities.

Later on Tuesday after their sleep period, the space crews will move Dextre by remote control to its base on the U.S. space laboratory Destiny.

The shuttle crew arrived at the station on Wednesday to install Dextre and deliver a storage room for an elaborate Japanese laboratory that is due to arrive during NASA's next shuttle mission in May.

NASA has 10 more flights planned to complete the $100 billion space station and deliver supplies before the shuttles are retired in 2010. A final servicing call to the Hubble Space Telescope also is scheduled for late summer.

(Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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