Spacewalking astronauts lose piece of shielding, floats away

The world's oldest and most experienced spacewoman has just set another record, this time for spacewalking. This was Whitson's eighth spacewalk.

The bundled-up shield somehow came loose as Whitson and Shane Kimbrough worked to install micrometeorite protection over a spot left exposed when a new docking port was relocated.

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.

Spacewalkers have lost objects before but usually the items are small, like bolts. Cameras tracked the shielding as it drifted into the distance, and Mission Control said there was no danger the lost shield could hit and damage the space station.

The PMA-3 relocation gets the station ready for the new International Docking Adapter-3 set to be delivered on a future SpaceX Dragon cargo mission.

The entire space station is protected, in some fashion, against possible debris strikes.

Floating in the Quest airlock, Kimbrough and Whitson switched their spacesuits to battery power at 7:29 a.m. EDT (GMT-5), officially kicking off U.S. EVA-41, the second NASA spacewalk in one week.

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That is the most spacewalks ever performed by a woman. She is America's most experienced female astronaut, veteran of two long-duration stays aboard the station in 2002 and 2007-08 totaling almost 377 days aloft.

Wilson and fellow astronaut Shane Kimbrough went outside to install upgraded computer and electrical components to connect the station to a second global docking port to be installed there.

Longtime NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson-whose first space mission was in 2002-just became the female astronaut with the most spacewalks under her belt. In 2008, an astronaut lost her entire tool kit during a spacewalk, the AP report recalled.

The excess heat produced through normal space station operation used to shed by the radiators. Overall, she's spent more than 500 days off of planet earth-also more than any other woman.

Whitson has been in orbit since November.

NASA, meanwhile, has indefinitely delayed a spacewalk that had been scheduled for next week.

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