Technology & Science

Astronauts complete 7-hour spacewalk to set up new parking spot on ISS

Two astronauts are back inside the International Space Station following a spacewalk that took an unintended turn when a piece of equipment got away.

World's oldest spacewoman, 57-year-old Peggy Whitson, sets spacewalking record

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson is seen during a spacewalk outside the International Space Station earlier this year. She made her 8th spacewalk on Thursday, March 30, 2017, and surpassed the old record of more than 50 hours and 40 minutes' accumulated spacewalking time. (NASA/flickr)

Two astronauts are back inside the International Space Station following a spacewalk that took an unintended turn when a piece of equipment got away.

The cloth bundle floated away Thursday midway through a spacewalk by Peggy Whitson and Shane Kimbrough. Mission Control quickly came up with a plan for an impromptu patch job, which worked, and NASA said there was no risk of it hitting the orbiting complex.

Whitson and Kimbrough spent seven hours setting up a new parking spot on the ISS.

1.5-metre piece floats away during installation on space station 1:00

Whitson, meanwhile, set a new spacewalking record for women. 

She surpassed the 50-hour, 40-minute mark of accumulated spacewalking time, previously set by former station resident Sunita Williams. This was the eighth spacewalk of Whitson's career, more than any other woman. At age 57, Whitson is the oldest spacewoman ever and also the most experienced.

"You guys be safe and enjoy your time out," French astronaut Thomas Pesquet radioed from inside the space station as Whitson and Kimbrough ventured out to work on the Harmony module's space-facing docking port, which will get the station ready for equipment set to be delivered on a future SpaceX Dragon cargo mission.

In this image made from video provided by NASA, astronauts Shane Kimbrough, left, and Peggy Whitson, install a shield on a relocated docking port outside of the International Space Station on Thursday. (NASA/Associated Press)

The port was disconnected last week, then moved to a new location on the station, where the astronauts connected cables and performed other crucial modifications. It will serve as one of two parking spots for commercial crew capsules under development by SpaceX and Boeing. The first flight could occur as early as next year. ​ 

More than 500 days in space

Whitson has been in orbit since November. This is her third space station stint. Altogether, she's spent more than 500 days off the planet, also more than any other woman. 

European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet is photographed during a spacewalk in January 2017. (NASA/flickr)

She's scheduled to return to Earth in June, but may stick around an extra three months, until September. NASA is hoping to take advantage of an extra seat in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that's due to launch next month and return in September. A decision is expected soon.