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More nuts and bolts go AWOL on second space walk

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The crew of Atlantis should be just about wrapping up the second of their three planned space walks.

Canadian astronaut Steve MacLean and his American colleague Dan Burbank left the relative safety of the International Space Station at 9:05 this morning (GMT), to continue work on installing the station's P3/P4 truss with its 70m solar panel array.

Burbank and MacLean removed 14 launch locks, NASA says, before starting work on the six launch restraints on the Solar Alpha Rotary Joint (SARJ). This is the part that will let the arrays track the sun.

Yesterday we reported that the first space walk team had dropped a few of the fixings they were working with. DIY gremlins are still troubling the crew, apparently intent on stealing small pieces of equipment.

According to the NASA website: "About 7:10 am EDT, MacLean reported that one of the four bolts on the cover to SARJ launch lock 8 was missing. The bolt had been there when he removed the cover to access the lock. MacLean reported he did not see the bolt in the SARJ mechanism. The cover is secure with three of the four bolts in place."

With that part of the work out of the way, the astronauts got busy getting ahead on tasks scheduled for the next space walk.

This EVA mission was expected to last about six and a half hours, meaning the astronauts should be checking for any more lost nuts and bolts and heading for the space station as we write.

The rest of the crew is hefting cargo between the space station and the Shuttle. ®

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