Science

Astronauts perform second of three scheduled spacewalks at International Space Station

Astronauts perform second of three scheduled spacewalks at International Space Station

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 USA crew ferry ships, to install an upgraded computer relay box and to attach protective shielding.

The crew was not in danger due to the mishap, which occurred when Whitson was trying to fold up a bulky cloth cover, known as an axial shield, and put it in a bag. NASA is live streaming the six-and-a-half hour spacewalk online and you can Watch it HERE. It was visible in the distance as a white dot. The lost fabric shield is relatively large: It weighs 18 pounds and, when unfolded, measures about 5 feet by 2 feet and is about 2 inches thick. They also will install the second of the two upgraded computer relay boxes on the station's truss and install shields and covers on PMA-3 and the now-vacant common berthing mechanism port on the Tranquility module.

Whitson along with Kimbrough finish cable connections at the Pressurized Mating Adapter-3 just recently attached to the Harmony module's space-facing port.

Floating in the Quest airlock, Kimbrough and Whitson switched their spacesuits to battery power at 7:29 a.m.to officially kick off U.S. EVA-41, the second NASA spacewalk in one week.

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Spacewalking astronauts suffered a minor setback Thursday when a piece of thermal shielding they were installing outside the International Space Station slipped away and drifted into space. Thursday's walk brought her total spacewalk time past the previous record of 50 hours and 40 minutes, held by Sunita Williams. Williams is one of four NASA astronauts who will make the initial test flights of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing Starliner capsules.

Whitson earned a doctorate in biochemistry and served as the first female space station commander in 2008.

She said in an interview this month on NASA television that she had spent her time at the orbiting lab growing stem cells for a science experiment on cell therapies for cancer. This is her third space station stint.

The 57-year-old Whitson has been in orbit since November.