Astronaut Peggy Whitson celebrates female spacewalk record

Astronaut Peggy Whitson celebrates female spacewalk record
Peggy Whitson has broken the record for cumulative time and the number of spacewalks by a female astronaut in a truly amazing achievement and, despite a minor mishap on the trip, she will go down as a NASA hero and role model for young girls everywhere.

Whitson broke the previous record, held by astronaut Sunita Williams, with a cumulative total of 53 hours and 20 minutes, reached on her eighth such venture into the darkness of space outside the ISS on Thursday.

The 57-year-old was accompanied by station commander Shane Kimbrough on the 6.5-hour spacewalk.

Around the midway point of their mission, there was one slight mishap: At approximately 10am EDT (1400 GMT) on Thursday, a debris shield which was due to be installed to protect a docking port on the station became unhinged and floated off into space.

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The 5ft (1.5m) debris shield will join 21,000 other pieces of space junk flying around the globe in Earth’s orbit at approximately 250 miles (402 km) above solid ground.

An investigation has been launched into what exactly took place that allowed the 5ft (1.5m), 17lbs (8kg) debris shield to float off into space. The minor incident (objects have been known to float away on space walks regularly) wasn’t enough to dampen spirits both on the ISS and in mission control, however.

Whitson is scheduled to return to Earth in June but, according to the AP, she may yet extend her time in space until September.

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