31 March, 2017
Whitson is set to make her next spacewalk sometime next month, when she will become the third most experienced spacewalker, male or female. The spacewalkers hooked up heater cables to the port Thursday.
The cover is made of the same material as the shielding, according to Mission Control, and just as capable of protecting against potential strikes by bits of space debris and providing thermal control.
The cloth bundle floated away Thursday midway through a spacewalk by Peggy Whitson and Shane Kimbrough (KIM-broh). Mission Control monitored the shield as it drifted away and, a couple hours later, determined it posed no risk to the 250-mile-high outpost. Almost two hours later, the shield was seen as a white speck in the distance.
Assuming the Cygnus gets there in time and the spacewalk stays on schedule, Whitson and Pesquet will replace the avionics box, install a wireless antenna and a new HD television camera and help engineers troubleshoot a cooling issue with the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. She has surpassed the 50-hour, 40-minute mark of accumulated spacewalking time, previously set by former station resident Sunita Williams.
The pair installed three other debris shields during their spacewalk and fitted a temporary cover over the docking port where the lost shield would have gone. The shields were required to cover the port where the PMA-3 was removed earlier in the week and robotically installed on the Harmony module. It was the eighth spacewalk of her career, the most ever performed by a woman.
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Whitson and Pesquet will perform the third and final spacewalk and they will replace an avionics box on the starboard truss called an ExPRESS Logistics Carrier, a storage platform.
Whitson and her spacewalking partner, Shane Kimbrough, need to complete prep work on a docking port. It will serve as a parking spot for commercial crew capsules under development by SpaceX and Boeing.
But whenever the next spacewalk takes place, Whitson is expected to move up to No. 3 on the list of world's most experienced spacewalkers with a total time of about 59 hours over nine EVAs.
Whitson undertook her first space mission in 2002 and most recently launched into space in November past year, according to NPR.