Peggy Whitson in the ISS
March 31, 2017

Peggy Whitson breaks spacewalking record for a female astronaut 

It was one small step for (a?) women, one giant leap for womankind as NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson this week set a new spacewalking record for a female astronaut.

Together with NASA colleague Shane Kimbrough, Whitson went outside of the International Space Station for the second time in a week.

After 4 hours and 23 minutes, Whitson surpassed the existing record for the cumulative time a female astronaut has spent spacewalking, held by NASA astronaut Suni Williams.

Williams' total was 50 hours and 40 minutes, a figure Whitson easily bettered by the end of the mission, which lasted 7 hours and 4 minutes in total. She had reached 53 hours and 22 minutes on her eighth spacewalk.

A mostly successful mission

The two astronauts were working on readying the ISS to receive commercial spacecraft, and their work was generally a success despite some equipment being lost in space.

The pair had tried to attach two axial shields to protect a docking port from micrometeoroids. However, one of the shields slipped away before it could be strapped down.

Exasperated, Kimbrough called out to say: "Peggy, I don't have a shield," and Whitson noticed it, saying "Ah... it is right by the radiator. It is moving station zenith [space-ward], maybe half a foot a second."

For now, a makeshift (but dependable) cover has been used to protect the docking port. NASA spokesman Dan Huot told Space.com a more permanent plan will be decided upon later, with the present being "too early to make the call.”

Along with Whitson's record, another positive came in the form of a "get-ahead" task, in which the astronauts took some photos that will help NASA to assess what further work might be needed to facilitate the docking of commercial spacecraft.

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Image credit: Peggy Whitson/NASA Johnson/Flickr