Cosmonauts Take Spacewalk Outside International Space Station

This story was updated at 10:02 a.m. ET.

Two Russian cosmonauts have begun a spacewalk outside theInternational Space Station today to do some maintenance work and set up forscientific experiments.

Fyodor Yurchikhin, a veteran of four previous spacewalks,and Oleg Skripochka, who is making his first trip outside a spacecraft, floatedoutside theorbiting laboratory around 10:00 a.m. EST (1500 GMT) for aroughly six-hour spacewalk. They were about half an hour late getting started.

The spaceflyers will install a multipurpose workstationon the starboard side of the station's Russian Zvezda service module. They willalso perform a grab-bag of minor tasks, including cleaning the thermalinsulation around the vents of an oxygen-generation system, and relocating atelevision camera from one end of the Rassvet docking compartment to the other.[Graphic:The International Space Station Inside and Out]

The pair will also clean and remove a robotics experimentknown as Kontur (a Russian project that stands for Development of a System ofSupervisory Control Over the Internet of the Robotic Manipulator in the RussianSegment of ISS), from the port side of the Zvezda module into the Pirs airlock.

Finally, they will install a new materials experiment ona handrail on the station's Rassvet module, and collect samples from theexterior of Zvezda and Pirs to be analyzed later to study how the spaceenvironment affects the materials.

The spacewalkers are two of six crewmembers livingonboard the spacestation now as part of the Expedition 25 mission. NASA astronautDoug Wheelock is commanding the mission, while Skripochka, Yurchikhin,cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri and NASA astronauts Shannon Walker and Scott Kellyare serving as flight engineers. [Gallery:Building the International Space Station]

While the two cosmonauts are outside today, their four colleagueswill be inside the two Russian Soyuz spacecraft currently docked at thestation, so they are prepared to evacuate in case of an emergency. The measureis a safety precaution for every Russian spacewalk and the chances of an actualemergency are very unlikely, NASA officials said.


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Clara Moskowitz
Assistant Managing Editor

Clara Moskowitz is a science and space writer who joined the team in 2008 and served as Assistant Managing Editor from 2011 to 2013. Clara has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She covers everything from astronomy to human spaceflight and once aced a NASTAR suborbital spaceflight training program for space missions. Clara is currently Associate Editor of Scientific American. To see her latest project is, follow Clara on Twitter.