cosmonauts breeze through spacewalk outside space station
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[February 04, 2016]
By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - Two
veteran Russian cosmonauts returned to the International Space Station
on Wednesday after replacing experiment equipment that is testing how
materials and biological samples fare in the harsh environment of space.
Station flight engineers Yuri Malenchenko and Sergey Volkov left
the station's airlock at 7:55 a.m. EST (1255 GMT) for what was
expected to be a 5-1/2-hour spacewalk, a live broadcast on NASA
The men finished 45 minutes early and floated back inside the
orbital outpost as it soared 250 miles (402 km) above Earth.
“We're ahead of the game,” an awaiting crewmate, speaking in
Russian, told the spacewalkers, a translator reported.
Malenchenko and Volkov began their spacewalk by casting off a flash
drive into space, giving a ceremonial send-off to recorded messages
and video from last year’s 70th anniversary of Victory Day, said
NASA mission commentator Rob Navias.
Victory Day commemorates the former Soviet Union's victory over Nazi
The flash drive eventually will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and burn
Malenchenko, who was making his sixth spacewalk, and Volkov, on his
fourth, then collected samples from outside the airlock’s hatch door
and from a window. The swabs will be analyzed to determine how much
residue from the station’s steering thrusters has built up on the
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The cosmonauts subsequently made their way to the site of a
seven-year-old European science experiment holding plant seeds,
bacterial spores, fungi and other samples. They removed the
equipment and installed other devices to test how biological samples
and various materials, such as coatings used on spacecraft,
withstand the extreme temperature swings and high radiation of
The station is a $100 billion research complex owned and operated by
15 nations. Rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts have staffed
the orbital outpost since November 2000.
The first crewmembers to spend one year in orbit, NASA astronaut
Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, are scheduled
to return to Earth on March 1.
(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Paul Simao)
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