Female astronaut spacewalks into history

With plenty of straps and a little bit of reconfiguring, Whitson and Kimbrough successfully retrofitted the PMA cover to replace the lost cloth shielding.

A space blanket floated away from American astronaut Peggy Whitson on Thursday as she made a historic spacewalk outside the International Space Station, setting a new record for the most spacewalks by a woman.

"This is a significant milestone", said Jordan, as Whitson became the world's most experienced female spacewalker. It was visible in the distance as a white dot.

It was the eighth spacewalk of Whitson's career. She was delighted, though, by how well everything turned out.

During today's spacewalk, Whitson planned to hook up heater cables and remove a thermal cover from PMA-3 while Kimbrough installed an upgraded computer relay box in the station's power truss.

Whitson radioed in, 'You guys came up with a fantastic plan - on short notice. "That's fantastic", Whitson radioed. "There was one spacewalk where we lost an entire bag of tools".

The astronauts don't know how the 5-foot, 18-pound shield drifted off. It eventually will re-enter the atmosphere and burn up.

While not a ideal fit, it should protect the station from small asteroid and debris strikes.

Before concluding their spacewalk, Kimbrough and Whitson also installed what has been nicknamed a "cummerbund" around the base of the PMA-3 adapter.

The docking port will serve as a "parking spot" for upcoming space missions and will help companies to transport its crews.

Whitson hails from Beaconsfield and is in the midst of her second, 6-month mission aboard the International Space Station.

Midway through Thursday's spacewalk, Whitson was set to break another record. Williams is one of four NASA astronauts who will make the initial test flights of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing Starliner capsules. A docking mechanism will be attached to the outboard end of the tunnel late this year or early next.

A Russian holds the all-time spacewalking record: Anatoly Solovyev with 16.

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. It was relocated with the space station's robotic arm two day later. She has spent more than 50 hours walking in space from the station circling 250 miles above the Earth.

She is scheduled to return to Earth in June but could stay deployed until September.

"Teams are focused on completing the (spacewalk) and will review the events as they unfolded after it is completed", NASA spokesman Dan Huot wrote in an email. This cloth shield - which also provides micrometeorite protection - is so-named because it fits around the adapter in a way that is similar to how a tuxedo's cummerbund fits around a person's waist.

  • Carolyn Briggs