Rails in space: Astronauts move stalled rail car on space station

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HOUSTON, Texas – Two NASA astronauts went railroading Monday on the International Space Station in orbit more than 250 miles above the earth. They performed a spacewalk with the goal of freeing a rail car that was stalled outside the lab. Astronauts Scott Kelly and Timothy Kopra exited the space station and made their way toward the stuck car to release its brakes. The car had to move about four inches so it could be latched into place and allow a cargo ship filled with almost 3 tons of food and supplies to dock Wednesday.

The car is part of the station’s Mobile Remote Servicer Base System’s Mobile Transporter. The transporter was designed by Northrup Grumman and allows robotic arms to glide 354 feet down rails on the station’s main truss. The “railroad” gives the two robotic arms the ability to travel to work sites all along the truss structure. If needed, it is possible for an astronaut to “ride” the vehicle while it moves at a top speed of about 5 feet per minute – now that’s “rare mileage!”

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