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First all-female spacewalk team aces repairs

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NASA astronaut Christina Koch floats on the end of the International Space Station’s robotic arm during a spacewalk. (NASA via YouTube)

For the first time in history, two women teamed up today for a spacewalk.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir began the operation to fix a faulty electrical power system on the International Space Station at 7:38 a.m. ET (4:38 a.m. PT)  — setting a new precedent in the process.

During a break in the action, the spacewalkers took a congratulatory phone call from the White House.

“You’re brave people — I don’t think I want to do it, I must tell you that. But you are amazing people,” President Donald Trump told the pair.

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Spacewalkers pay tribute to Russian pioneer

Russian spacewalkers
Russian spacewalkers Oleg Kononenko and Alexey Ovchinin work outside the International Space Station’s Pirs docking compartment. (NASA TV)

Two Russian cosmonauts took care of a host of scientific and maintenance choreson the exterior of the International Space Station, including cleaning windows from the outside, during a spacewalk that lasted just a minute over six hours.

They also wished the world’s first spacewalker, Alexei Leonov, a happy birthday. Leonov, a pioneer of the Soviet space program who made history with his 1965 orbital outing and took part in the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project a decade later, turns 85 on May 30.

In his honor, cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Alexey Ovchinin wore orange placards praising Leonov on their spacesuits during today’s extravehicular tasks. They also showed off a photo of Leonov that they carried outside with them.

“Mr. Leonov, please accept our heartfelt birthday wishes,” one of the spacewalkers said. “You’re with us here and now in outer space, and for the entire duration of this spacewalk you will be here with us.”

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Spacewalkers finish up orbital wiring job

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Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques works on the International Space Station’s exterior, while NASA’s Anne McClain works in the background at lower right. (NASA TV via YouTube)

A U.S.-Canadian spacewalking duo wrapped up a series of three outings over the span of three and a half weeks, aimed at upgrading the International Space Station’s power and communication systems.

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Astronauts take a not-so-historic spacewalk

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NASA astronaut Anne McClain floats between spacewalkers Christina Koch and Nick Hague in advance of today’s spacewalk. (NASA Photo)

Today’s spacewalk at the International Space Station wasn’t as historic as it was originally meant to be, but it got the job done nevertheless.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch connected a set of three lithium-ion batteries on a pair of the station’s solar arrays, replacing a set of six older, less powerful nickel-hydrogen batteries.

The six-hour, 45-minute outing followed up on a spacewalk that Hague and NASA crewmate Anne McClain conducted last week to swap out a similar set of batteries. It turns out that one of those newly installed batteries hasn’t been charging properly. To remedy the situation, Hague and Koch did some set-up work that will make it possible for two of the nickel-hydrogen batteries to take its place. That part of the job will be completed using the station’s robotic arm.

Originally, NASA planned to have Koch and McClain take on today’s extravehicular tasks. That would have made it the first all-female spacewalk in history. Women have gone on spacewalks many times before, dating back to 1984, but always in the company of men.

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All-female spacewalk nixed due to spacesuit switch

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NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Anne McClain swap batteries during a spacewalk. (NASA Photo)

History’s first all-female spacewalk will have to wait for another time after NASA switched the lineup for two upcoming extravehicular outings at the International Space Station.

NASA had planned to have astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch go out together on Friday to upgrade a set of batteries for the station’s solar arrays. But today the space agency said it was assigning Koch and crewmate Nick Hague to that spacewalk. McClain and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques are tentatively scheduled to perform a follow-up spacewalk on April 8.

The reason has to do with spacesuit sizes: During her first-ever spacewalk on March 22, McClain learned that a medium-size hard upper torso was the best fit for her. But only one medium-size torso could be made ready for Friday’s outing, and NASA decided that Koch should wear it.

That left Hague as NASA’s preferred candidate to accompany Koch, wearing a spacesuit of a different size.

Having two women handle a spacewalk would have been a first. Women have been doing spacewalks since 1984, but always in the company of men.

The fact that the lineup was revised due to a sizing issue irked some folks.

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Russians toss satellites in marathon spacewalk

Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev tossed four small research satellites into orbit and installed an animal-tracking sensor system known as Icarus on the International Space Station’s exterior today, during a spacewalk that ran more than an hour longer than planned.

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Spacewalkers install HD video cameras

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NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold looks out from the International Space Station’s Quest airlock at the beginning of a spacewalk. (Oleg Artemyev / Roscosmos via Twitter)

NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold installed new high-definition video cameras on the exterior of the International Space Station today during a spacewalk that lasted nearly seven hours. The cameras will provide enhanced views for the approach and docking of commercial space taxis that are being developed to ferry astronauts to and from the station.

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Spacewalkers shuffle space station’s coolant pumps

Two NASA spacewalkers repositioned a pair of spare coolant pumpsoutside the International Space Station today during a 6.5-hour outing. A faulty ammonia pump nicknamed “Leaky” was put into long-term storage while another spare pump, dubbed “Frosty,” was maneuvered into position on the station’s robotic arm for testing later this week.

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Box gets tossed out in longest Russian spacewalk

Russian cosmonauts today conducted their nation’s longest-ever spacewalk to replace an electronics box for a high-gain antenna on the International Space Station’s Russian-made Zvezda module. The old box was thrown outward on a trajectory that’s not expected to imperil the station, but it took some doing to get the new box installed and working properly.

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Spacewalkers put new hand on robot arm

NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Scott Tingle spent nearly seven and a half hours on a spacewalk outside the International Space Station to install a new “hand” on the station’s robotic arm.

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