International Space Station Plans Spacewalk

Two of the three Astronauts aboard the International Space Station will spend Thanksgiving eve outside the space station. Houston Public Radio's Rod Rice reports that the six-hour spacewalk will include a number of tasks including a little golf.

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Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin and Commander Mike Lopez-Alegria will be the spacewalkers, while Flight Engineer Tomas Reiter remains inside the craft. It is Tyurin who will hit a golf ball from a specially designed tee. Spacewalk flight director Holly Ridings says the ball will be hit off the back of the space station.

"The reason we do that, when we preformed analysis, with this light weight ball pushed off in the retrograde direction there is absolutely no recontact issue with the ISS. Additionally the ballistic number of the ball is such that in two to three days the ball will deorbit, so it also poses absolutely no concern for the upcoming shuttle launch."

Ridings says the ball weighs three grams, about as much as three one dollar bills, and Tyurin will need only a short putting stroke to send the ball off into space. This task is a commercial venture sent up by the Russians.

Ridings says for this and all the tasks that will be performed, the astronauts are doing a lot of preparation this week.

"The crew studies on board, just like you'd study things here on the ground. We uplink information to them, they have conferences with the specialists on the ground in order to understand all of the details of the tasks that they are going to be performing. They clean out their airlock and configure it. They spend time locating the hardware that they'll need and gather up all the tools that they're going to use."

And Ridings says they do a lot of work with their spacesuits. The spacewalk begins at 5pm central time on Wednesday afternoon and will be broadcast live on NASA TV.

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