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Atlantis astronauts complete last spacewalk

Atlantis crew: On the front row are Commander Charlie Hobaugh (left) and Pilot Barry Wilmore. On the back row (from left) are astronauts Leland Melvin, Mike Foreman, Robert Satcher and Randy Bresnik, all mission specialists. Image Credit: NASA

NEW DELHI (BNS): Astronauts have completed the third and final spacewalk of space shuttle Atlantis’ mission to the International Space Station.

A report by Associated Press said Monday’s spacewalk was delayed an hour by problems with an astronaut's suit. Mission Control told the crew to reattach the valve to the water pouch on the drink bag in Robert Satcher Jr's suit which came off as he was getting ready to step out. To everyone's relief, the valve went back on tightly.

Satcher was joined outside on Monday morning by Randolph Bresnik, the father of a new baby girl. The spacewalkers hooked up a fresh oxygen tank and science experiments at the International Space Station.

Inside the station astronauts Leland Melvin and Barry Wilmore operated the station’s Canadarm2, which played a major role in the space walk’s first and most lengthy task -- the installation of a 6.2-foot-long, 1,240-pound high-pressure oxygen tank. The arm lifted the tank from Express Logistics Carrier 2 (ELC2) and took it to the airlock, where it was attached, a NASA statement said.

While Satcher worked on early steps of the tank move, Bresnik got a materials experiment from Atlantis’ cargo bay and installed it on ELC2. Satcher released a bolt on an ammonia tank; part of the station's cooling system, in preparation for a spacewalk during the STS-131 mission next year to replace the tank.

Atlantis lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday. Its 11-day flight includes three spacewalks and the installation of two platforms to the station's truss, or backbone. This equipment is large and can only be transported using the unique capability of the shuttle. The platforms will hold spare parts to sustain station operations after the shuttles' retirement.

Brian Smith, the lead space station flight director for the mission said, “This flight is all about spares – basically, we’re getting them up there while we still can.”

Atlantis' STS-129 mission is NASA's fifth and last shuttle mission for 2009.

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