August 18, 2005

Space Station Crew Begins Spacewalk

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- The two men serving aboard the International Space Station donned Russian spacesuits and floated outside the orbital complex to begin a six-hour spacewalk on Thursday.

Commander Sergei Krikalev, who turns 47 next week, and flight engineer John Phillips, 54, opened the hatch in the Pirs docking compartment just after 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT) to begin their first spacewalk since arriving at the station four months ago.

Krikalev, a Russian cosmonaut who is making his eighth spacewalk, immediately tackled the first task on the to-do list and retrieved a Russian medical experiment. Phillips, a U.S. astronaut making his first spacewalk, remained in the air lock to prepare equipment and adapt to the new environment.

"I feel great," Phillips radioed in Russian to ground control teams outside of Moscow.

The men are scheduled to retrieve and replace several other experiments stashed on the outside of the complex, photograph a materials science experiment and retrieve radiation sensors.

They also plan to install a television camera that will be needed when Europe's new cargo vessel makes its debut flight to the station next year.

The final task of the spacewalk will be to relocate a grapple fixture for a crane from outside the Zarya navigation and communications module and reposition it on the Unity connecting node.

Moving the gear will clear space for the next shuttle crew to deliver radiation shields which are to be installed on the Zvezda module by a future station crew. Zvezda houses the living quarters.

NASA said on Thursday its next mission to the station will not be ready to fly before March to allow engineers time to fix problems with the shuttle's fuel tank.

Shuttle Discovery and a crew of seven linked up with the station last month during NASA's first shuttle mission after the 2003 Columbia accident. The shuttle crew conducted three spacewalks to fix station steering systems and deliver a platform filled with spare parts.


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