World's Oldest Woman Astronaut Keeps Spacewalking Past Records

It was a disappointing turn of events in a record-setting spacewalk for Whitson, the world's oldest and most experienced spacewoman. 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.

"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.

"You guys came up with a fantastic plan on short notice", Whitson told Mission Control.

Each fabric shield weighs 18 pounds.

The spacewalk formally began at 7:29 am US time (1129 GMT) on Thursday.

Astronauts at the International Space Station were on a spacewalk when a large debris shield got away.

Shane Kimbrough prepares equipment before exiting the airlock on Thursday's spacewalk.

One of the shield segments being installed on a vacant port managed to escape its tether, floating away before the astronauts noticed. Almost two hours later, the shield was seen as a white speck in the distance.

The second spacewalk included Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA.

It was the eighth spacewalk for Whitson, who surpassed the 50-hour, 40-minute record total cumulative spacewalk time by a female astronaut previously held by Nasa astronaut Sunita Williams. That's also more than any other woman in history.

"During the spacewalk, one of the shields was inadvertently lost", NASA said in a statement. They also installed an upgraded computer relay box and protective shielding before calling it a day. When she launched previous year from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan she became the oldest woman to fly in space and the oldest woman to perform a spacewalk.

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. Then flight controllers in Houston moved it to a new and better location Sunday.

  • Carolyn Briggs