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NASA monitors space junk ahead of spacewalk

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Astronaut Christer Fuglesang rides the International Space Station's robotic arm carrying an empty ammonia tank for stowage inside the shuttle's payload bay. Image credit: NASA TV

WASHINGTON (AFP): NASA has tracked a large piece of space debris set to pass close to the International Space Station as astronauts prepared for the second of three spacewalks outside the orbiter.

Astronauts Danny Olivas and Christer Fuglesang planned to camp out in the Quest airlock starting at 0654 GMT in order to acclimate their bodies for their outing in space more than 12 hours later.

Mission Control was keeping a close watch on the remains of the three-year-old Ariane 5, a European space rocket, that were moving in an oval-shaped orbit.

The piece, which is some 200 square feet large, was expected to pass almost two miles from the outpost Friday, the US space agency said.

NASA Flight Director Office chief John McCullough said it did not appear that the ISS would have to maneuver to avoid the space junk.

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