NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson Just Shattered Another Space Record

Alicia Guzman
March 31, 2017

During Thursday's spacewalk, a regular event in support of space station assembly and maintenance, an essential piece of cloth shielding needed for the ISS went astray.

This latest space walk will put Whitson at number three on the overall list of longest cumulative time spent on spacewalks.

She said: "I love being in space".

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.

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"Thank you guys, you did an incredible job, you had to deal with, obviously, the issue early on and came up with a great plan", Kimbrough radioed flight controllers.

The piece of shielding the astronauts lost, protects against micrometeorite debris and was one of four pieces that Whitson and Kimbrough were installing over the spot left by a relocated docking port.

It was not immediately clear how the shield got away, said NASA spokesman Dan Huot.

Spacewalkers occasionally lose small items like nuts and screws, but rarely do large objects slip away. The second of the two upgraded computer relay boxes on the station's truss will be installed by these astronauts who will perform the second spacewalk. When unfolded, it is about 2 inches thick and measures about 5 feet by 2 feet.

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They will also install shields and covers on PMA-3 and the now-vacant common berthing mechanism port on Tranquility.

On January 6, Expedition 50 Flight Engineer Whitson carried out her last spacewalk with Commander Shane Kimbrough. It will serve as a parking spot for future commercial crew capsules.

A team from the Mission Control Center at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston devised a plan for the astronauts to finish covering the port with the PMA-3 cover Whitson removed earlier in the day. The first flight could occur as early as next year.

This is the 199th EVA in station history, the fourth so far this year, the sixth for Kimbrough and the eighth for Whitson. After today, Whitson will hav accumulated 59 hours in spacewalking, but hey, that could grow-she won't be back on Earth until sometime in the fall. This is her third tour of duty aboard the ISS. NASA is hoping to take advantage of an extra seat in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that's due to launch with two astronauts next month and return in September.

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