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Discovery Astronauts Begin Mission's First Spacewalk

VOA News February 28, 2011

Astronauts from the space shuttle Discovery have begun the first of two planned spacewalks outside the International Space Station.

Discovery crew members Steve Bowen and Alvin Drew ventured out of the hatch ahead of schedule Monday to start the six-and-a-half hour spacewalk. The two went straight to work, completing their first project of installing an extension to a power cable.

The two astronauts are preparing the space station for a new storage unit called the Permanent Multipurpose Module. During their spacewalks, they will also complete a Japanese space agency experiment, Message in a Bottle, by collecting a sample of the vacuum of space inside a cylinder and bringing it back to the Earth for public display.

Monday's venture outside the space station is Drew's first and Bowen's sixth career spacewalk. Bowen is the first astronaut to make back-to-back shuttle missions. He flew aboard the space shuttle Atlantis last May.

Bowen was added to the Discovery crew in late January as a replacement for astronaut Tim Kopra, who could not make the flight after he was injured in a bicycle accident.

Bowen and Drew are scheduled to make another spacewalk on Wednesday.

The 11-day mission is the last for the space shuttle Discovery.

The shuttle, first launched in 1984, has flown on 38 missions, more than any other shuttle in the NASA fleet. It carried the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit in 1990, and was the first shuttle to travel to Russia's Mir Space Station.

The United States is ending its space shuttle program 30 years after the first launch.

The shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis each have one mission left.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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