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NASA: Focus Reigns at Mission Control in Spacewalk

Orbital Champ: ISS Astronaut Sets New U.S. Spacewalk Record
This view from the helmet camera of astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria shows his spacewalking partner Sunita Williams as she takes a photograph in a Feb. 8, 2007 spacewalk. (Image credit: NASA TV.)

WASHINGTON -- Despite being stunned by a NASA astronaut'sarrest earlier this week, flight controllers were focused and on task at theagency's InternationalSpace Station (ISS) Mission Control during a Thursdayspacewalk, mission managers said today.

ISS Expedition14 astronauts MichaelLopez-Alegria and flight engineer SunitaWilliams performed a successful six-hour, 40 minute spacewalk to supportassembly of the orbital laboratory.

"It was anothervery, very successful EVA today," Derek Hassmann, NASA's lead U.S. spacewalk flightdirector, told reporters of the post-extravehicular activity (EVA) briefing.

Thespacewalk marked the Expedition 14 crew's thirdin nine days -- a first without a visiting shuttle mission -- but also thefirst following the Monday arrestof NASA astronaut LisaNowak, whom police charged withattempted murder, attempted kidnapping and other counts stemming from aconfrontation with a woman whom she believed to be a rival for the affectionsof another astronaut WilliamOefelein.

Nowak returned to Houston, Texas -- home to NASA's Johnson Space Center, astronaut corps and ISS MissionControl -- on Wednesday.

Shana Dale,NASA's deputy administrator, told reporters Wednesdaythat JSC director Michael Coats met with the agency's astronaut corps todiscuss the need to stay focused on ongoing ISSmissions and shuttle training.

That focus,ISS mission managers said Thursday, carried over into NASA's Mission Control,where the agency's chief astronaut Steve Lindseycould be seen on NASA TV at times speaking with ISS mission controllers duringtoday's spacewalk.

"I wasextremely proud of how folks focused and were able to bear down and do exactlywhat they needed to do," Hassmann said.

KirkShireman, NASA's deputy ISS program manager, said Lopez-Alegria -- who set anew U.S.spacewalking record Thursday -- Williams had spoken with Lindsey and wereaware of the statusof Nowak, who has been placed on a30-day leave.

"I think it'ssafe to assume that they know all about the current situation," Shireman saidof the Expedition 14 crew. "They were very focused and we're very pleased abouttheir performance these past few days."

GlendaLaws, NASA's lead Expedition 14 spacewalk officer, said the mood in MissionControl was straight to business.

"Everyonewas certainly aware what was going on, but they kept their nose pressed to thebooks and we pressed on," Laws said. "That's the way it works here at NASA.Everyone is devoted and conscientious about getting the work done."

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Tariq Malik
Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter.