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Spacesuit released; students to track it
Updated: 2006-02-04 09:56

The crew of the international space station shoved an unmanned spacesuit stuffed with discarded clothing and radio equipment out the door Friday, creating a ghostly scene that resembled a cosmonaut tumbling away from the orbiting outpost.

Spacesuit released; students to track it
SuitSat-1 is seen in a televion image floating away from the International Space Station, Friday, Feb. 3, 2006. SuitSat-1, that is outfitted with a special radio trasmitter and other gear, was a spacesuit that was near the end of its useful life and will remain in its own orbit for as long as six weeks before re-entering the earth's atmosphere and burning. SuitSat-1 wil broadcast recorded ham radio messages in Russian , Japanese, Spanish, German, French and English. [AP]
Complete with helmet and gloves, the spacesuit floated past the Russian section of the space station, 220 miles above Earth, before rotating away feet first and beginning its orbit around the globe.

"Goodbye, Mr. Smith," Russian flight engineer Valery Tokarev said, giving the figure a nickname as he and U.S. commander Bill McArthur began a six-hour spacewalk to perform maintenance and photography tasks.

The Russian suit was equipped with a radio transmitter that will send recorded messages in six languages to amateur radio operators for several days before eventually re-entering Earth's atmosphere and burning up, NASA officials said.

The spacesuit project, known as SuitSat-1, was the brainchild of a Russian ham radio operator. It will send several words in code for schoolchildren listening on the ground. Radio operators will be able to pick up the messages by tuning into FM frequency 145.990 MHz.

Along with the radio transmitter, the stuffed spacesuit also has internal sensors to monitor temperature and battery power. As it floats along, it will transmit its temperature, battery power and time it has been in space to the ground.

Students and others can also follow its progress on a NASA Web site. The suit is expected to pass over the U.S. between midnight and 4 a.m. according to NASA.

"We expect the ham radio operators on the ground to be able to receive the suit signal for several days," said Kwatsi Alibaruho, flight director for the spacewalk at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

During Friday's spacewalk, Tokarev and McArthur were scheduled to cover a wide swath of the 240-foot-wide, 140-foot-long floating station as they take on several chores. It will be the fourth spacewalk for McArthur and the second for Tokarev.

One of their chores involves taking steps to protect an important cable connected to a transporter that moves a platform holding the station's robotic arm.

A twin cable which provides power, data and video to the mobile transporter was inadvertently cut in December. Mission managers want to make sure that does not happen to the remaining cable. The cut cable will be repaired at a later time.

The other tasks include creating storage space, retrieving a Russian science experiment and photographing handrails, antennas and sensors to see how they have held up in space.

"By the conclusion of this (spacewalk), Bill and Valery will have traversed to the extreme ends of just about every length of the international space station, a rare feat that they are really looking forward to," said Anna Jarvis, NASA's spacewalk officer.

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