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Spacewalking astronauts lose piece of shielding, floats away
31 March 2017, 01:50 | Candice Butler
Click image to enlarge Shane Kimbrough flies a flag from the Ramblin Wreck in space in January 2017. Download Image MORE
No other details were immediately available about how the shield, which weighs 18 pounds (8 kg) and measures 63.6-by-23.4- by-2.6 inches (162-by-59-by-7 cm), was lost.
Thursday's spacewalk lasted seven hours.
While not a ideal fit, the cover will help protect the station from impacts and provide thermal shielding, NASA said.
The bundled-up shield somehow came loose as Whitson and Shane Kimbrough worked to install micrometeorite protection over a spot left exposed when a new docking port was relocated. 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. Almost two hours later, the shield was seen as a white speck in the distance.
Whitson, meanwhile, has set a new spacewalking record for women.
The spacewalkers needed to hook up vital heater cables to the docking port and install shields to protect against strikes by micrometeorites. They also installed an upgraded computer relay box and protective shielding before calling it a day. The shields were required to cover the port where the PMA-3 was removed earlier in the week and robotically installed on the Harmony module. Whitson, the world's oldest and most experienced spacewoman has just set another record, her eighth spacewalk.
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Space station commander Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson, about to become the world's most experienced female spacewalker, floated outside the International Space Station Thursday to continue ongoing work to set up a second docking port for US crew ferry ships, to install an upgraded computer relay box and to attach protective shielding.
Whitson and Pesquet will perform the third and final spacewalk and they will replace an avionics box on the starboard truss called an ExPRESS Logistics Carrier, a storage platform.
On January 6, Expedition 50 Flight Engineer Whitson carried out her last spacewalk with Commander Shane Kimbrough.
The PMA-3 relocation gets the ISS ready for the new International Docking Adapter-3 set to be delivered on a future SpaceX Dragon cargo mission.
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. Williams's record was 50 hours 40 minutes.
Now on her third long-duration spaceflight, Whitson is the oldest woman to ever fly in space.
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