Wednesday, December 13, 2006

NASA retracts solar array on station

In fits and starts, NASA began retracting via remote control a 115-foot solar panel on the international space station Wednesday, likening the tricky task to folding a road map back up and stuffing it in the glove compartment.

The electricity-generating solar array served as a temporary power source aboard the orbiting outpost. NASA needed to move it out of the way so that a new, permanent pair of solar wings could rotate in the direction of the sun.

The folding-up began shortly before 1:30 p.m. EST and was expected to take about five hours.

Flight controllers on the ground and astronauts at the space station were forced to unfold sections of the golden array they had just retracted in order to smooth out creases and counter slack in the tension.