Steve Swanson

Courtesy Photo

Steve Swanson

Swanson, astronauts get Sunday off

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Steamboat Springs astronaut Steve Swanson and his colleagues in orbit finally got a break Sunday as NASA scrambled down below to put together a spacewalking repair plan for a jammed equipment platform at the international space station.

Mission Control gave the 10 space travelers the morning off so they could rest up for the third and final spacewalk of shuttle Discovery's mission Monday.

That spacewalk will have the shuttle astronauts returning to an equipment storage shelf that jammed during Saturday's outdoor excursion. The spacewalkers accidentally inserted a pin upside down.

A hastily assembled team of experts spent Saturday night and much of Sunday trying to figure out how best to deal with the problem. The astronauts, meanwhile, gathered up a pry bar, a couple of hammers and other tools to force the pin loose, if ordered to do so.

The storage platform - located on the long space station framework that holds all the solar wings - is meant to secure big spare parts that will be needed once NASA's shuttles stop flying. Because of all the pin trouble Saturday, the astronauts did not have time to deploy additional shelving on the opposite side of the station. That work was bumped to today's spacewalk.

Tethers are holding down the jammed platform so it won't bang around, but they're certified for only three months out in the vacuum of space. Mission Control asked the crew to collect stronger tethers to better secure the platform in case it remains stuck.

Monday's spacewalk will be performed by Joseph Acaba and Richard Arnold II, both former schoolteachers. They were selected as educator-astronauts five years ago.

Swanson, a 1979 Steamboat Springs High School graduate, took part in the mission's first two spacewalks.

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