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Two Russians install debris protection panels in ISS spacewalk

RIA Novosti

31/05/2007 11:25 MISSION CONTROL (MOSCOW REGION), May 31 (RIA Novosti) - Two Russian cosmonauts have made a successful spacewalk to install panels to protect the international space station (ISS) from space debris.

Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineer Oleg Kotov - crew members of the 15th expedition to the orbital station - installed five aluminum panels in the Russian section of the ISS to reduce the risk of damage by small debris and meteoroid impact, a problem raised in an independent safety task force report February.

"The cosmonauts succeeded in performing the task," a Mission Control spokesperson said.

In the spacewalk that lasted more than five hours, the cosmonauts used a crane to move stakes of panels from the U.S. section, where they had been delivered to on board space shuttles, and are expected to install the remaining 12 panels during their next spacewalk scheduled for June 6.

In addition, Yurchikhin and Kotov rerouted a cable for a navigation antenna, while the third crewmember, U.S. astronaut Sunita Williams, remained inside. During next week's spacewalk, the cosmonauts will also place a canister with biologic experiments outside the station.

Thursday is to see a final decision by NASA on whether to give a go-ahead to its Atlantis space shuttle liftoff to the ISS scheduled for June 8. The launch was postponed from mid-March after a hailstorm damaged the insulating foam on the spacecraft's tank.

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