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US, Russian Space Station Crew Members Begin Spacewalk

By VOA News
10 March 2009

Two crew members aboard the International Space Station have floated outside the orbiting outpost to set up a series of bioexperiments.

U.S. commander Mike Fincke and Russian flight engineer Yury Lonchakov began the spacewalk Tuesday at 16:22 UTC.

Fincke and Lonchakov are setting up an experimental platform to expose seeds, spores and other biological matter to the environment of space. The samples will later be studied for the effects of space on living organisms.

The U.S. space agency NASA said the two will also undertake minor repairs and photograph the exterior of the space station before they return inside.

The space walk is expected to last about six hours.

The photographs will be used to assess the condition of the outer surfaces and structural elements of the station.

NASA officials said the spacewalkers will also remove straps of tape from a docking area to ensure they do not get in the way during the arrival of visiting spacecraft. A special bag is provided for any trash.

This spacewalk is taking place two days before the scheduled launch of the U.S. space shuttle Discovery on March 12.

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