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Astronauts Film Planet After Fuel Cell Is Fixed

Times Science Writer

Astronauts aboard the space shuttle Discovery were able to turn all the lights back on Wednesday after a minor problem with their electrical system was fixed, and then they spent most of their time making a movie.

But this will not be your run-of-the-mill flick.

A 70-millimeter IMAX camera has been turned toward the Earth throughout the five-day flight as part of an effort to document environmental degradation around the planet. The project is a collaboration between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.

So far, the camera has captured images including forest fires in Texas’ Big Bend National Park, flooding in Peru, the destruction of a coral reef off the eastern coast of Africa and fire damage in the Florida Everglades.

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The five astronauts aboard the Discovery got the best news of the day when they were told that engineers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston had figured out what caused one of three fuel cells aboard the craft to act erratically. The fuel cells are used to generate electricity to run everything on board the spacecraft, and the loss of one had forced the astronauts to shut down unnecessary equipment.

But after the problem was determined to be a sticky valve, which was freed, the third fuel cell was turned back on, eliminating the threat of having to end the mission a day earlier than planned.

The shuttle is scheduled to land at Edwards Air Force Base in California at 6:34 a.m. Saturday


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