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(Note last paragraph re next...important...launch)

Astronauts Ready For Final Spacewalks

.c The Associated Press
SPACE CENTER, Houston (Oct. 18) - A few final chores and one choice job - 
test-driving a mini-jetpack - awaited a pair of astronauts Wednesday, the 
last of four days of spacewalks around the international space station. 

On their second trip outside space shuttle Discovery since Monday, 
spacewalkers Michael Lopez-Alegria and Jeff Wisoff had to clean up the top of 
the newly installed station truss for the arrival of a 240-foot pair of solar 
wings in December. The duo also had to deploy a tray on the truss that will 
hold connections between the station and the U.S. Destiny laboratory module, 
scheduled for installation in January. 

But with that work out of the way, the spacewalkers were to fire up a 
mini-jetpack they had only experienced via endless practice in NASA's virtual 
reality laboratory. Lopez-Alegria and Wisoff were enthusiastic about the 
tests well before launch. 

``They want to do it and we want them to do it,'' said Daryl Schuck, the lead 
spacewalk officer in Mission Control. 

First, the duo had to attempt a few jetpack maneuvers about 40 feet above 
Discovery - 240 miles above Earth. 

Then, one at a time, they were to jet down to the rear of the cargo bay while 
one followed alongside on the end of the shuttle robot arm holding a tether - 
just in case. Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata was tasked with controlling 
the robot arm from inside Discovery. 

Flight director Chuck Shaw said the 50-foot trips, which were supposed to 
take about three minutes apiece, would be ``a little like watching paint 

The rescue jetpack is not nearly the hot rod it would seem. Since it's built 
only to bring an errant astronaut back to the shuttle or the space station, 
each move has to be deliberate to conserve its limited fuel. Earlier 
astronauts have flown on a bigger jetpack designed for zooming around space, 
but NASA stopped using those in the 1980s. 

In keeping with the rescue theme, Wisoff and Lopez-Alegria also planned to 
take turns acting as space lifeguards. One was to feign injury while the 
other carried him to safety, so NASA could see how astronauts would handle an 
injured or incapacitated spacewalker. 

Discovery's other spacewalkers, Leroy Chiao and Bill McArthur, ventured 
outside for their second spacewalk of the mission Tuesday. They mounted two 
power converters on the truss and connected a few cables. Their spacewalk 
lasted about 17 minutes beyond its scheduled 6 1/2 hours. 

``That might be attributed to Bill and Leroy's reluctance to come inside. 
They did make some comments about that,'' Schuck said. ``I really don't think 
that was a factor but I guess I can't blame them.'' 

At the close of Wisoff and Lopez-Alegria's spacewalk, their second of the 
mission, all that remains for Discovery's crew is a day inside the space 
station tending to various tasks. They'll pull away from the station Friday, 
leaving behind 10 tons of new space station pieces. 

Because Discovery has boosted the station's orbit, the launch of the orbiting 
outpost's first permanent crew from Kazakstan has been delayed one day, to 
Oct. 31, NASA said. The three men will arrive at the station on Nov. 2. 
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