Astronaut Peggy Whitson sets new spacewalking record

by Edgar Hayes March 31, 2017, 1:00

The second of the two upgraded computer relay boxes on the station's truss will be installed by these astronauts who will perform the second spacewalk. The entire 250-mile-high space station is protected, in some fashion, against possible debris strikes.

The world's oldest and most experienced spacewoman has just set another record, this time for spacewalking. More woman power to spacewalks!

Spacewalkers have lost objects before but usually the items are small, like bolts. The last such occasion was in 2008 when an astronaut lost hold of her tool bag while struggling with a jammed solar panel. Then flight controllers in Houston moved it to a new and better location Sunday.

During the first spacewalk, the Pressurised Mating Adapter-3 (PMA-3) was prepared for installation of the second International Docking Adapter, which serves as a home to commercial crew vehicle dockings.

One of the shield segments being installed on a vacant port managed to escape its tether, floating away before the astronauts noticed. Cameras tracked the shielding as it drifted into the distance, and Mission Control said there was no danger the lost shield could hit and damage the space station.

As the drama unfolded, Peggy Whitson set a record for the most spacewalks by a woman - eight - and the most accumulated time spent spacewalking - well over 50 hours.

"Thank you guys, you did an wonderful job, you had to deal with, obviously, the issue early on and came up with a great plan", Kimbrough radioed flight controllers.

This is the 199th EVA in station history, the fourth so far this year, the sixth for Kimbrough and the eighth for Whitson. She served as commander of the station during her second visit and was the first non-military pilot, and first female, to serve as chief of NASA's astronaut office at the Johnson Space Center.

With all three spacewalks complete and Cygnus safely attached, Kimbrough, Soyuz MS-02 commander Sergey Ryzhikov and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko plan to undock and return to Earth April 10, landing on the steppe of Kazakhstan around 7:20 a.m. (5:20 p.m. local time). NASA is hoping to take advantage of an extra seat in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that's due to launch with two astronauts next month and return in September.

A decision on Whitson's mission is expected soon.

The third spacewalk is scheduled for April 6, with Whitson and Pesquet and robotic help from Kimbrough. A shipment containing replacement parts needed for that spacewalk is on hold because of rocket concerns at Cape Canaveral, Florida; the delivery should have been there by now.

Whitson and Pesquet are officially scheduled to carry out another spacewalk April 6, but needed equipment is awaiting launch aboard an Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship that has been grounded by work to fix hydraulic lines in the freighter's Atlas 5 rocket.

FILE - In this Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016 file photo, US astronaut Peggy Whitson, member of the main crew of the expedition to the International Space Station, waves from a bus prior the launch of Soyuz MS-3 spaceship at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

However, this time around will be a personal landmark for Ms Whitson who, with this spacewalk, will become the woman who has performed the most spacewalks, overtaking Sunita Williams record of seven. Thursday's spacewalk was the eighth in her career.

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