Image: Spaceball
Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, at the center of the frame, throws the small Spherical Satellite into orbit during Monday's spacewalk outside the International Space Station. The small satellite will spend three months in orbit and be used for space tracking experiments.
By Managing editor
updated 8/20/2012 7:24:06 PM ET 2012-08-20T23:24:06

Two Russian cosmonauts merged orbital construction with zero-gravity sports in a spacewalk on Monday when they moved a space station crane and — with a mighty throw — tossed a big steel ball into orbit.

Veteran spacewalkers Gennady Padalka and Yuri Malenchenko spent nearly six hours working outside the International Space Station to upgrade the orbiting lab during Monday's spacewalk, which began at 11:37 a.m. ET.

The spacewalk's main goal was to move the space station's Strela 2 crane from the Russian-built Pirs docking module to the station's Zarya control module. To move the Strela 2, Padalka rode at the end of different crane, and took time to enjoy a fabulous view of the Earth far below.

"It's light now … beautiful," Padalka, the station commander, said in Russian, which was translated in a NASA broadcast. "Wow, what a beautiful view." Video from Padalka's helmet camera showed a bright blue Earth lined with white clouds below the space station. [More photos from the spacewalk]

The Strela 2 crane is an oversized, hand-operated telescoping pole that is used to move cargo outside the station. The crane needed to be moved because the Pirs module will be jettisoned next year to make way for a new Russian space laboratory module, NASA officials said.

Padalka and Malenchenko got off to a late start on the job due to a leaky valve on the space station's Russian side, but swiftly made up for lost time by skipping rest breaks. By the end, the veteran spacewalkers were more than an hour ahead of schedule.

After moving the Strela-2 crane, Padalka tossed the 20-pound (9-kilogram) Spherical Satellite into orbit as part of a Russian space tracking experiment.

The 21-inch-wide (53-centimeter) ball is essentially a target in space that Russian scientists will use to test techniques for monitoring space junk and following its atmospheric re-entry. The ball is expected to stay in orbit for about three months before falling back to Earth, NASA officials said.

Cameras mounted to the hull of the station beamed back amazing views of Padalka's throw, which was aimed to send the satellite below and behind the station so it won't threaten to hit the orbiting lab in the future.

"Beautiful! Do you see it?" Padalka exclaimed as the shiny satellite floated away. "And you can see the sun as it reflected … it is absolutely gorgeous."

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Padalka and Malenchenko also completed a long list of other tasks outside the station. They attached new debris shields to the hull of the station's Russian segment, added support struts to an airlock ladder and retrieved a biological sample canister. The cosmonauts were unable to collect a material exposure experiment from the station exterior due to a stuck hinge that prevented it from folding closed, NASA officials said.

While Padalka and Malenchenko worked outside, 5h3 four other members of the space station's Expedition 32 crew remained inside the orbiting lab. The station's current crew is made up of three Russians (Padalka, Malenchenko and Sergei Revin), American astronauts Joe Acaba and Sunita Williams, and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide.

Monday's spacewalk was the first of two excursions by the station's crew this month. William and Hoshide will venture outside the station on Aug. 30 to perform the second spacewalk.

The spacewalk was the 163rd spacewalk dedicated to space station construction or maintenance since construction of the outpost began in 1998. It marked the ninth spacewalk for Padalka and the fifth for Malenchenko. The cosmonauts made sure to take time to snap extra photos of each other before wrapping up their work in space.

You can follow Managing Editor Tariq Malik on Twitter @tariqjmalik and on Twitter @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook and Google+.

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Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

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  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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