USA astronaut breaks female record for most spacewalks


American astronaut Dr. Peggy Whitson, the first woman to command the International Space Station, has broken another record: completing more spacewalks than any other woman. Two such astronauts - Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson - experienced that reality first hand when one of four thermal shields they were supposed to install just kind of floated away.

Mission Control determined that the drifting shield was not hazardous to the mission or the ISS.

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Whitson, 57, now also has the most cumulative spacewalking time, beating Williams's record of 50 hours and 40 minutes. Mission control tracked the white dot as it receded from view, and concluded that it posed no immediate threat to the space station.

According to NASA spokesman Dan Huot, the three remaining shields are being used to cover the craft's most vulnerable spots, so despite being an annoying setback, the situation isn't anywhere near as dire as one might assume, and won't put the ISS at any risk of danger. The debris shield was meant to be affixed to the station as part of its total armor against impact from space debris. Spacewalk lasted for seven hours from 12:29 UTC to 19:33 UTC and its main objectives were focused on finishing tasks which were started during last spacewalk performed by Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet (ESA) on March 24.

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Before concluding their spacewalk, Kimbrough and Whitson also installed what has been nicknamed a "cummerbund" around the base of the PMA-3 adapter. The 2-inch thick canvas will orbit the Earth (along with the 21,000 other pieces of space junk NASA now tracks) before eventually burning up in the atmosphere.

Ms. Williams may have a chance to retake her title, as she's slated to return to the ISS next year aboard either SpaceX's Dragon capsule or Boeing's Starliner.

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The top spot for most accumulated time in spacewalking is now held by Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev, who has participated in 16 spacewalks for a grand total of 82 hours spent in EVA.