A two-man crew retreated safely inside the international space station early Friday after extending their spacewalk so that they could replace a video camera on a construction platform at the orbiting outpost.
The task was the last during the 6 1/2-hour spacewalk for Russian commander Pavel Vinogradov and U.S. flight engineer Jeff Williams, who successfully completed their half-dozen maintenance jobs. They got behind schedule, though, and the camera chore was still unfinished when the decision was made to extend the spacewalk for less than an hour.
The longest spacewalk of eight hours and 56 minutes was performed in 2001.
NASA controllers conferred with their Russian counterparts about whether to call off that last task or proceed as planned. They decided to go ahead after the Russians agreed that the crew's spacesuits could endure the extra time in space, and the new camera was replaced successfully.
220-mile-high work site
"OK. We're going out," said Vinogradov as he and Williams exited the Russian side of the station at 6:48 p.m. ET in their bulky suits while the outpost soared more than 220 miles (350 kilometers) above Earth.
Vinogradov attached himself to the end of a boom which can extend to 50 feet (15 meters), and Williams maneuvered him to an area on the station where the Russian commander successfully installed a new vent for a broken oxygen-generation system. At one point, the spacewalkers were bathed in a golden glow from a sunset over the Pacific Ocean. After the sun passed, the temperature got chilly.
"My feet are like ice," Williams joked in Russian when asked if he was cold. A Russian flight controller responded, "We need to put brandy into the system instead of water."
Vinogradov and Williams also repositioned a cable interfering with the signal of a navigation antenna, photographed another antenna that may be preventing a reboost engine from working properly, and retrieved a thruster residue collection plate, a contamination monitoring device and biology experiments.
NASA controllers took over command of the spacewalk from the Russians for the task of replacing the camera.
The spacewalk was the first scheduled for the two crewmen since their arrival at the space station in early April. During their careers, Vinogradov has conducted five previous spacewalks; Williams has made one.
The maintenance tasks left little time for publicity stunts. Plans were scratched for Vinogradov to whack a golf ball into orbit for the longest drive in history. A Canadian golf club manufacturer paid Russia's space agency an undisclosed amount to have Vinogradov hit the gold-plated golf ball into space, but the stunt was postponed until later in the year.
A few items needed for the spacewalk got lost somewhere inside the cluttered space station. Among them: part of a Russian foot restraint for holding Vinogradov in place at the end of the extendable boom. He used a U.S.-made tether instead.