Spacewalkers outfit Canadian robot with tools

Mon Mar 17, 2008 7:35pm EDT
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By Irene Klotz

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Two shuttle Endeavour astronauts left the International Space Station on Monday to outfit a newly installed robotic maintenance man with tools and cameras for future chores.

The robot, named Dextre, was launched in pieces and assembled during the second of five spacewalks planned during Endeavour's 12-day stay at the station.

Monday's outing, the mission's third, paired veteran spacewalker Richard Linnehan with rookie Robert Behnken.

"Go get 'em BamBam," Endeavour astronaut Michael Foreman said, using a nickname for the muscular Behnken. "You have an appointment with Mr. Dextre."

The duo stepped out around 7 p.m. EDT to begin a seven-hour spacewalk.

In addition to attaching a tool belt and other accessories to the Canadian robot, the astronauts plan to install a science experiment to the outside of Europe's Columbus laboratory and stash some spare parts on the station's frame for future maintenance.

Canada provided the $209 million robot to cut down on the amount of time astronauts will need to spend on risky spacewalks. With its 11-foot(3.4-metre) arms and gripper hands, Dextre adds manual dexterity and another 30 feet of reach to the station's robotic crane.

Earlier Monday the Endeavour crew tested Dextre's 14 joints -- seven on each arm -- which will give the robot the ability to handle items as small as a phone book or as large as a phone booth.   Continued...