Space blanket floats away during historic spacewalk

It is highly unfortunate that the accident happened midway through Peggy Whitson's record-setting spacewalk, the eighth of her career, thereby making her the only spacewoman with the maximum number of spacewalks.

Peggy Whitson, who became the world's most experienced female spacewalker during the outing, told ground control teams that a bag containing the debris shield floated away at about 10 a.m. EDT/1400 GMT.

The space walk formally began at 7:29am when Whitson and her NASA colleague Shane Kimbrough switched their spacesuits to battery power before venturing into space.

"Thursday's spacewalk will see Whitson and Kimbrough finish cable connections at the Pressurised Mating Adapter-3 (PMA-3) just recently attached to the Harmony module's space-facing port", the blog post said.

Their main task involved disconnecting an old port that needed to be moved to make room for a new docking device.

A five-foot (1.5-meter) debris shield being installed on the International Space Station floated away on Thursday during a spacewalk by two veteran US astronauts, a NASA TV broadcast showed.

The third spacewalk, by Whitson and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, now is planned for April 6.

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This is published unedited from the PTI feed.

If the Cygnus does not arrive by around April 4, sources say, the third spacewalk likely will be delayed to late April, but no decisions are expected until the problem with the Atlas 5 is resolved. In 2008, an astronaut lost her entire tool kit during a spacewalk, the AP report recalled. Williams's record was 50 hours 40 minutes.

One of the shield segments being installed on a vacant port managed to escape its tether, floating away before the astronauts noticed.

The excess heat produced through normal space station operation used to shed by the radiators.

Spacewalkers have lost objects before but usually the items are small, like bolts. It will serve as a parking spot for future commercial crew capsules.

The cloth bundle was one of four being installed in a docking port to protect against meteorite debris.

This was the 199th EVA in station history, the fourth so far this year, the sixth for Kimbrough and the eighth for Whitson. She is America's most experienced female astronaut, veteran of two long-duration stays aboard the station in 2002 and 2007-08 totaling almost 377 days aloft.

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