Space blanket floats away during historic spacewalk

Immediately, teams gathered in a Mission Control office that contained replicas of everything up in space, Huot said.

Each of the four cloth shields weighs 18 pounds and is a little over 5 feet long, 2 feet wide and nearly 3 inches thick, Huot said. After today, Whitson will have accumulated 59 hours in spacewalking, but hey, that could grow - she won't be back on Earth until some time in spring.

During the walkabout, Whitson also beat Williams's time spent spacewalking. Breaking the previous record of 50 hours, 40 minutes, with hers of 53 hours and 40 minutes during her eight spacewalk, which is also a first for a female astronaut. But all of sudden, the bundled-up shield someway unfastened while both Whitson and Shane Kimbrough were working to the installation of the micrometeorite protection over a region, which left exposed after the relocation of the new docking port last week.

Peggy Whitson acheived a record of being the oldest spacewoman with the highest number of spacewalks.

Yesterday's walkabout is the second in a series of three space walks to outfit the exterior of the orbiting outpost with parking spots for a new generation of space taxis ferrying astronauts to the station.

Whitson, who is 57 years old, became the oldest woman to fly in space when she launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and in January, she set yet another record as the oldest woman to perform a spacewalk.

One of the shield segments being installed on a vacant port managed to escape its tether, floating away before the astronauts noticed. European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who conducted last week's spacewalk along with Mr. Kimbrough, assisted the duo in and out of their spacesuits and monitor the activities from inside the station.

The cover is made of the same material as the shielding, according to Mission Control, and just as capable of protecting against potential strikes by bits of space debris and providing thermal control. The spacewalk was nearing its end as it hit the seven-hour mark. This is her third space station stint.

Peggy Whitson has been living in space since November 19, 2016. NASA is hoping she can return to Earth then on an extra seat in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

  • Carolyn Briggs