3rd Spacewalk This Month

Thursday, February 8th 2007, 8:33 am
By: News On 6

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) _ Two U.S. astronauts stepped outside the international space station to carry out a series of maintenance tasks at the orbiting outpost, their third venture out in nine days.

Astronauts Michael Lopez-Alegria and Sunita Williams began the spacewalk at 8:26 a.m. EST.

``Beautiful day,'' Williams said. ``I'm ready.''

The astronauts had a series of tasks, including jettisoning two thermal shrouds that had kept a part of the space station from getting too hot but were no longer needed.

In the past, engineers wanted to make sure that the items wouldn't strike the station, but they have grown more comfortable with the idea.

``We've gotten more proficient in jettison analysis and understanding the safety of jettisoning,'' lead spacewalk officer Glenda Laws said recently. ``We expect the shrouds ... to look like a large bundle of laundry.''

The spacewalk marked the first time three spacewalks have been conducted in such a short period of time without a space shuttle docked to it. Lopez-Alegria planned to conduct a fourth spacewalk on Feb. 22, that one with Russian flight engineer Mikhail Tyurin.

The first two spacewalks had similar tasks, and flight controllers thought they could save preparation time by squeezing them together.