If that itinerary sounds a little dull, blame the Russians. Discovery's mission was six months late, thanks to persistent delays with Star City's Soyuz module, which will form the life-support center of the $60 billion station now slated for completion in 2005. NASA bigwigs have already offered mea culpas for giving Russia, which is in the throes of economic and political paralysis, such a vital job -- the completion of which is essential to maintaining the construction schedule. Live and learn. Until the Russians get back on schedule, NASA crews will have to content themselves with busy work -- like schlepping 3,620 pounds of supplies from Discovery to the station interior, beginning Sunday evening. At least they seem to be enjoying it.
They may be the only construction crew in the universe not to get overtime, but astronauts Tamara Jernigan and Dr. Daniel Barry weren't complaining after a few glitches extended their space walk in and around the embryonic International Space Station by two hours. "You can't be telling me we're almost done," Barry said before ducking back inside the space shuttle Discovery at the end of the eight-hour free-float. "Wow. It feels like we just walked outside." The mission was mostly a prep for the crews to come: setting up space scaffolding, attaching cranes and hanging bags of tools on the exterior of the seven-story station.