Spacewalking astronauts completed almost all of the greasy repairs on a gummed-up joint at the International Space Station today, leaving a few chores behind for a final walk on Monday. As spacewalk No. 3 was getting under way 225 miles up, a new recycling system for converting urine into drinking water broke down again. It was the third day in a row that the urine processor inexplicably shut down.
It appeared to be the same kind of sluggish motor trouble seen before. Engineers on the ground scrambled to figure out what might be wrong. The problem could jeopardize NASA's plan to return recycled water to Earth aboard space shuttle Endeavour next weekend. The $154 million water recycling system, delivered a week ago by the space shuttle, is essential for allowing more astronauts to live on the space station next year.