Astronauts complete first spacewalk of Endeavour mission
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Tim Kopra and Dave Wolf, two astronauts from the US space shuttle Endeavour, ventured out on Saturday for the first of five planned spacewalks. Their mission is to complete a Japanese laboratory at the International Space Station.
AFP - Two astronauts from the US space shuttle Endeavour ventured out on Saturday for the first of five planned spacewalks aimed at completing a Japanese laboratory at the International Space Station.
Tim Kopra, who was making his first space walk, and Dave Wolf, an old hand with four walks under his belt, emerged from the decompression chamber of the International Space Station (ISS) at 1619 GMT, 20 minutes later than scheduled, NASA television said.
They were set to prepare the installation of a third and final piece of the Japanese Kibo lab, brought up in the Endeavour's cargo bay.
The 1.9-tonne porch-like section is to be used for experiments in the vacuum of space will be attached to Kibo's two pressurized modules that were delivered to the ISS last year.
Once the pieces are ready the astronauts inside will maneuver Endeavour's robotic arms to put the section in place.
Saturday's space walk was expected to take over six hours.
Earlier on their first full day in space, the Endeavour crew inspected the spacesuits they will use in the five spacewalks planned during the mission.
The crew of six Americans and one Canadian also tested rendezvous equipment, installed a camera for the orbiter docking system and extended the docking ring that sits on top of the system.
The Endeavour mission aims to help fulfill "Japan's hope for an out-of-this-world space laboratory," as the shuttle delivers state-of-the-art equipment to conduct experiments in the vacuum of space, according to NASA.
Wolf and Kopra spent the night in the Quest airlock to reduce the preparation time needed for the walk.
On Friday the shuttle successfully docked at the space station amid questions about the integrity of the shuttle's heat shield.
During the delicate docking maneuver the two space vehicles traveled at 28,000 kilometers (17,398 miles) per hour as they approached each other, giving Commander Mark Polansky a margin of error of 4.5 centimeters (1.8 inches) to complete the procedure, NASA said.
The entry of Endeavour's crew aboard the ISS brought the number of astronauts inside the orbiting space station to a record 13.
Kopra will be staying aboard the ISS, taking over from Japanese engineer Koichi Wakata, who has been in space for 124 days.
The ISS should be completed in 2010, also the target date for the retirement of the US fleet of three space shuttles.
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