Astronaut Peggy Whitson sets new spacewalking record

During Thursday's spacewalk, a regular event in support of space station assembly and maintenance, an essential piece of cloth shielding needed for the ISS went astray.

The space blanket was one of four covers created to guard the station from micrometeoroids, and also for thermal protection.

So far, Whitson and NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough have successfully installed an upgraded computer relay box and hooked up cables and electrical connections on the Pressurized Mating Adapter-3.

The world's oldest and most experienced spacewoman has just set another record, this time for spacewalking.

Whitson, 57, is considered the oldest and most experienced woman astronaut in history, the Associated Press reported.

"Shane, thank you for the words", astronaut Anne McClain replied from mission control at the Johnson Space Center.

It will be the International Space Station's 200th spacewalk. During the spacewalk, one of the shields was inadvertently lost.

Each fabric shield weighs 18 pounds. When unfolded, it is about 2 inches thick and measures about 5 feet by 2 feet. The entire 250-mile-high space station is protected, in some fashion, against possible debris strikes. Then they turned to the shields, and that's when one of the folded coverings got away. Cameras tracked the shielding as it drifted into the distance, and Mission Control said there was no danger the lost shield could hit and damage the space station.

At 11:51 a.m. EDT, Peggy Whitson broke the record for cumulative spacewalking time by a female astronaut, previously held by NASA astronaut Sunita Williams.

This will serve as the second of two docking ports for the future SpaceX and Boeing crew capsules. The first flight could occur as early as next year.

She is also taking part in experiments to test how fire acts in micro gravity to better understand how it spreads in space, and growing seedlings to study how plants grow in orbit. By that time, she'll likely have spent more time spacewalking than any other American astronaut -male or female. NASA is hoping to take advantage of an extra seat in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that's due to launch with two astronauts next month and return in September.

A decision on Whitson's mission is expected soon. Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of European Space Agency (ESA) were the spacewalkers for first spacewalk.

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