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NASA gearing up for station spacewalk

NASA is getting ready to direct its first spacewalk in two and a half years by crew members on the international space station, after a string of outings supervised by Russia.
Expedition 12 astronauts Valery Tokarev, left, and Bill McArthur, right, participate in a spacewalk training session in June at NASA's Johnson Space Center, aided by German astronaut Thomas Reiter. The session helped Tokarev and McArthur prepare for next week's spacewalk on the international space station.
Expedition 12 astronauts Valery Tokarev, left, and Bill McArthur, right, participate in a spacewalk training session in June at NASA's Johnson Space Center, aided by German astronaut Thomas Reiter. The session helped Tokarev and McArthur prepare for next week's spacewalk on the international space station.Nasa
/ Source: Reuters

Next week, NASA will direct its first spacewalk in two and a half years by crew members on the international space station, agency officials said Thursday.

The spacewalk set for Monday will be the first under NASA’s full control since a glitch in the cooling system contaminated U.S. spacesuits and the U.S. air lock aboard the orbital outpost.

Crew members fixed the airlock, but until a U.S. space shuttle could deliver new U.S. spacesuits, spacewalkers had to use Russian suits, which can only be serviced in the Russian air lock. Moscow oversees spacewalks from its air lock.

New U.S. spacesuits arrived during July’s mission to the station by the shuttle Discovery, the only shuttle flight since Columbia burst apart over Texas in 2003.

Station commander Bill McArthur and flight engineer Valery Tokarev have two main tasks during their planned 5-hour-plus spacewalk.

“The tasks themselves are not overly challenging,” lead spacewalk developer Anna Jarvis said during a teleconference call with reporters on Thursday. What will be difficult is getting out of the air lock on time and staying on schedule.

Crew members will attach a television camera to a pole and carry it 60 feet (18 meters) to the end of the station’s port truss for installation. NASA needs the camera to guide a future shuttle crew.

McArthur and Tokarev then plan to remove a deteriorating instrument that measures electric fields around the station.

If time allows, they also will replace two failed electrical components on other parts of the station.