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U.S. astronauts completed their first spacewalk during the Endeavour's mission
U.S. astronauts completed their first spacewalk during the Endeavour's mission to the International Space Station, leaving a tool bag drifting through space, NASA said on Wednesday.

Astronauts Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper and Steve Bowen "spent six hours and 52 minutes outside the station working on several tasks, including removing a depleted nitrogen tank from a stowage platform on the outside of the complex and moving it into Endeavour's cargo bay," NASA said in a news release.

Most of the spacewalk was spent repairing and cleaning one of the Solar Alpha Rotary Joints (SARJ) and making a start on replacing 11 of 12 of the trundle bearings. These joints allow the complex's solar arrays to automatically rotate and track the sun as the station orbits the Earth.

About halfway into the spacewalk, one of the grease guns that Piper was preparing to use on the SARJ leaked, as she was cleaning the bag it came undone and drifted off into space as the other crew members on board the ISS watched it float past. It is the largest item to have been lost during a spacewalk.

The two astronauts were forced to spend the remainder of the spacewalk sharing a duplicate set of tools from Bowen's tool kit.

The two specialists also replaced a depleted nitrogen tank and a hose rotary coupler which provides coolant to the truss, as well as removing some thermal blankets to inspect the berthing mechanism on Japan's Kibo laboratory.

The next spacewalk will take place on Thursday which is also the 10th anniversary of the ISS when the station's first Zarya module was launched from the Baikonur space center on board a Russian Proton rocket.

The Endeavour mission is tasked with carrying out home improvements on the ISS as part of plans to double the crew size to six as early as May 2009. During the trip astronauts will install an additional bathroom, a refrigerator, a second toilet and extra exercise equipment.


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