Space: Astronauts to rescue satellite

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The Independent Online
NASA managers were deciding last night whether to have astronauts from the Columbia shuttle attempt a risky plan to grab a tumbling, one- and-a-half-ton satellite.

Columbia's crew accidentally sent the $10m Spartan satellite into a spin on Friday and now managers may ask astronauts Winston Scott and Takao Doi to rescue it in an already scheduled spacewalk tonight.

They have been trained in the technique for seizing satellites. But no one expected it to be spinning, so the men practised catching only a relatively still spacecraft.

Although it has been more than five years since astronauts last hauled in a satellite by hand, Scott said: "I feel pretty confident that we can pull it off and pull it off safely."

The satellite had failed to make a slow turn as expected following its release and one of the astronauts tried to latch on to the satellite again with the robot arm, the craft began tumbling an estimated 2 degrees a second - too fast for her to snag.