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Astronauts make spacewalk to assemble robotic helper

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Associated Press / March 16, 2008

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - With Dextre the robot's power problem solved, astronauts ventured outside the international space station last night to put together the bulk of the gigantic walking and working machine.

The robot's hands were attached to its 11-foot arms during the first spacewalk of Endeavour's space station trip. This time, astronauts aimed to connect the arms to the shoulders. First, though, the robot was going to sit up on its transport bed.

Shuttle astronauts Richard Linnehan and Michael Foreman were so eager to get started on the robot assembly that they got out the hatch early. The nighttime spacewalk - expected to last into the early hours of today - came close to being drastically altered or delayed. For nearly two days, a cable design flaw prevented NASA from getting power to Dextre.

Once fully assembled, Dextre will stand 12 feet and have a mass of 3,400 pounds. A third spacewalk, tomorrow night, will provide Dextre with a tool holster.

The Canadian-built Dextre is designed to eventually take over some of the more punishing chores astronauts do, such as lugging around big replacement parts.

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