INTRO: Two U-S space shuttle astronauts are on a spacewalk to continue outfitting the international space station, to which the shuttle is docked. Science Correspondent David McAlary reports that it is the first of four excursions outside the shuttle as astronauts prepare the station for permanent occupancy next month.

TEXT: Astronauts Bill McArthur and Leroy Chiao [CHOW] have ventured outside the shuttle Discovery for a six-and-a-half hour session aimed mostly at laying electric power and data cables.

It did not take long for the novice astronaut McArthur, riding the end of the shuttle's robot arm, to become emotional about the sight of the blue earth speeding below him at 29-thousand kilometers per hour.


(McARTHUR): Aw, it Is gorgeous!

(CIAO): How is the ride?

(McARTHUR): It is just wonderful! Not being able to see the shuttle It is a strange feeling. My toes are curling right up!

(CHIAO): Alright!

(McARTHUR): Oh, good god!

/// END ACT ///

The two spacewalkers are connecting power cables from the international space station to an 860-kilogram cubical cast aluminum truss. Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata attached the truss to the U-S module Saturday with the shuttle crane.

The truss contains equipment that requires electricity and computer connections, such as gyroscopes to control the station's motion, antennas, and heaters to keep the equipment warm in the frigid space conditions. The two crewmen are also moving a dish antenna on the truss to a temporary location until it is repositioned and activated during the next shuttle flight next month.

Like any mechanic on Earth, astronaut Chiao assembled his tools for the tasks facing him.

/// CHIAO ACT ///

I have got a five-eighths inch right angle drive, a small trash bag, and a ratchet a three-eighths ratchet.

/// END ACT ///

This is the first of four consecutive spacewalks this week involving two alternating pairs of astronauts. The other team, composed of Jeff Wisoff [WY-sawf] and Mike Lopez-Alegria [AL-uh-GREE-uh], takes its turn on Monday to perform other finish work on the truss.

The crew is preparing the space station for the first long-duration crew that is to arrive in two-and-a-half weeks.

The excursions outside Discovery will total about 26-hours, the most intense spacewalk schedule of any space station construction mission past or future. During the next six-years, astronauts and cosmonauts will make nearly 160-spacewalks to complete space station assembly. This compares to only 50 spacewalks in the previous 20-years of space flight.

None of this week's spacewalks are being seen on Earth, to the disappointment of mission controllers. An antenna failure aboard Discovery is preventing live television transmissions. A backup antenna with a slower data rate is sending back still photos every several seconds.

But for the moment, that does not matter to astronaut Bill McArthur, who is just enjoying the view of the shuttle and space station complex as it goes through the change from day to night during every 90-minute orbit.

/// McARTHUR ACT ///

The moon illumination is incredible!

/// END ACT ///