Mission Specialists Mike Foreman and Randy Bresnik work outside the International Space Station during the second spacewalk of the STS-129 mission.
Credit: NASA TV
This story was updated at 5:18 p.m. ET.
Two astronauts raced through the second spacewalk of their docked shuttle mission at the International Space Station Saturday, getting so far ahead of schedule they took on jobs scheduled for future excursions.
"Today was fantastic," said lead flight director Brian Smith in a briefing following the spacewalk. "We got everything we wanted to get done accomplished, and a few more things as well."
STS-129 astronauts Mike Foreman, a veteran spacewalker, and Randy Bresnik, making his first-ever foray outside of a spacecraft, finished their spacewalk in about six hours, completing station maintenance work and installing two cargo-stowage fixtures on the outside of the space station.
"Other than seeing my wife for the first time, I don?t think I've ever seen a more beautiful sight," Bresnik said after exiting the station's airlock and viewing planet Earth below him.
The sight wasn't the only first for Bresnik today. While he was spacewalking, Bresnik's wife, Rebecca, was laboring to give birth to his first daughter, the couple's second child. The astronaut agreed with Mission Control to delay news about the baby until after the spacewalk had been completed, so he could concentrate on the challenging task at hand. Though after the space venture finished the baby had still not yet been born.
"The Bresnik launch countdown clock has got some unpredictable and variable holds in it," Smith said. "We certainly wish them all the best and hope that soon their baby is born."
Smith said Bresnik was completely professional, and as a NASA astronaut and former Marine Corps fighter pilot, he had learned to compartmentalize.
"He absolutely stayed 100 percent focused," Smith said. "You can just look at the results of the spacewalk."
The spacewalkers began their outing about half an hour late, at 9:31 a.m. EST (1431 GMT), because of a false alarm that woke the astronauts Friday evening. The erroneous warning bell was the second in two nights, and mission managers think they might be related to a new Russian module called Poisk that was installed recently on the station.
The event delayed spacewalk preparations and forced NASA to shorten the excursion from a planned 6 1/2 hours. Nonetheless, the astronauts accomplished all they set out to do and more.
"They're really kicking butt on the timeline here," said STS-129 commander Charlie Hobaugh from inside the station, when the spacewalkers were about an hour ahead of schedule. "Great work, you and Comrade both," he told Foreman, referring to Bresnik by his call sign.
Hobaugh suggested the pair install a second cargo platform point near where they attached the first one, after they had breezed through that task. The spacewalkers were game, and Mission Control agreed to move forward with the task, which was originally scheduled for the mission's third spacewalk on Monday.
Foreman and Bresnik accomplished that some other minor tasks, including installing a wireless video camera system and relocating a piece of hardware on the outside of the station to make way for work on future missions. The two spacewalkers returned back inside the station and locked the hatch behind them, officially ending the outing at 3:39 p.m. EST (2039 GMT).
The event marked the fifth career spacewalk for Foreman, who now has a total of 32 hours, 19 minutes of spacewalking time under his belt. Bresnik, the rookie, clocked 6 hours, 8 minutes of spacewalking time today.
The shuttle crew plans to stay at the space station until Wednesday, when they will undock and land aboard Atlantis on Friday, after Thanksgiving. The STS-129 mission is an 11-day space trip intended to supply the station with a load of spare parts to prepare it for the era after the shuttles retire in about a year.
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SPACE.com is providing complete coverage of Atlantis' STS-129 mission to the International Space Station with Staff Writer Clara Moskowitz and Managing Editor Tariq Malik based in New York. Click here for shuttle mission updates and a link to NASA TV.