Astronauts install oxygen generator, give up on bad battery

SPACE CENTER, Houston - The crew of space shuttle Atlantis installed an oxygen generator and fussed with a recalcitrant battery Friday on the international space station.

The seven-man crew is outfitting and upgrading the orbiting complex for the November arrival of its first permanent residents.

''We've just about finished up everything that they sent us up here to do and we're looking for extra work now,'' said commander Terrence Wilcutt.

One of those extras tasks was to beam down a greeting to the Olympics getting under way in Sydney, Australia.

''From the international crew on board the international space station, we'd like to wish all of the international athletes good luck and Godspeed in your athletic endeavors,'' said Wilcutt.

The crew paid special tribute to the U.S. wrestling team. About 20 U.S. astronauts and several Russian cosmonauts competed in either high school or college wrestling, noted spaceman Edward Lu, who's also coached the sport.

Lu and cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, the main equipment installers, hooked up four power converters aboard the Russian service module Zvezda. The converters will eventually distribute electricity to the two Russian station segments from a pair of U.S.-built solar wings, which are to be attached in December.

Next, they put in place a different type of converter, a Russian device called Elektron, which separates water into hydrogen and breathable oxygen as part of the station's life support systems.

Meanwhile, astronaut Daniel Burbank dropped under Zvezda's floorboards to investigate problems with a new Russian-made battery that has refused to charge correctly.

The only glitch so far on the smooth-running mission, the balky battery was one of three new ones installed Wednesday aboard Zvezda. Two others were installed in the other Russian module, Zarya.

Burbank checked the battery's connections, which he reported were clean and tight. Later in the morning, Russian flight controllers instructed the crew to give up on it.

''Unfortunately, from the telemetry we see, it's still nonfunctional and the decision has been made to troubleshoot it when Expedition One is there,'' Russia's Mission Control said, referring to the first resident crew.

Zvezda can run on as few as five of its eight batteries with a crew aboard. Seven are working now.

By Friday, the astronauts had unloaded more than half of some 6,000 pounds of gear from Atlantis and a Russian Progress supply ship docked to Zvezda.

The Progress was emptied, freeing it to be filled with discarded packaging and other unneeded items. The trash-laden ship will turn into a garbage incinerator when it burns up upon re-entry into Earth's atmosphere later this year.

Also Friday, Wilcutt and pilot Scott Altman fired Atlantis' rockets to gently nudge the station about four miles higher, raising its orbit to about 237 miles.

Flight controllers in Houston ducked outside just before sunrise Friday to watch the linked shuttle and station soar overhead. It resembled a bright star.

''We were at the windows looking down awful hard at the same time, and we had a good look at you going by,'' Altman said.


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