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Shuttle astronauts take first of four spacewalks

Crew members are getting the space station ready for operations after the shuttles are retired.

May 20, 2011|Reuters
  • Mission Specialist Drew Feustel is seen in a view from the helmet camera of Mission Specialist Greg Chamitoff as they conduct the first spacewalk of the Endeavour mission.
Mission Specialist Drew Feustel is seen in a view from the helmet camera… (NASA TV )

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Two shuttle Endeavour astronauts floated outside the International Space Station on Friday for the first of four spacewalks to get the outpost ready for operations after the shuttles are retired this summer.

Wearing bulky pressurized spacesuits, Andrew Feustel and Gregory Chamitoff left the space station's airlock about 12:15 a.m. PDT as the station soared 215 miles over the northern coast of Australia. It was the fourth outing for Feustel, whose previous spacewalks were to work on the Hubble Space Telescope, and the first for Chamitoff.

"Congratulations on being the 201st human being to be in outer space," crewmate Michael Fincke radioed to Chamitoff from inside Endeavour.

Photos: Endeavor's final flight

"Thank you," Chamitoff replied. "It's a dream come true for me. It would be for anybody, the first or the 201st."

The astronauts are expected to spend more than six hours outside the station to retrieve a materials science experiment and install a replacement, set up a new communications antenna and begin work on one of the station's ammonia cooling systems.

Feustel, Chamitoff and Fincke will pair off for a total of four spacewalks during Endeavour's planned 12-day stay at the station, the final outings scheduled by space shuttle astronauts.

"We've got a number of tasks over four (spacewalks) getting the space station in a good configuration to proceed without the availability of the space shuttle," Endeavour commander Mark Kelly said during an inflight interview with Reuters.

Endeavour reached the station Wednesday on NASA's next-to-last shuttle mission to deliver the $2-billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and a pallet of spare parts. Both were installed with robotic cranes to the outside of the station's metal truss.

NASA's final shuttle mission, a cargo run aboard shuttle Atlantis, is scheduled for July.

The shuttles are being retired due to high operating costs and to free up funds to develop spaceships that can travel beyond the station's orbit where the shuttles cannot go.

Photos: Endeavor's final flight

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