CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA's most experienced spacewalker and his rookie partner wrapped up work on the international space station's new 44-foot girder Tuesday and hung powerful floodlights outside the orbiting outpost.
It was the fourth and final spacewalk for the visiting astronauts of space shuttle Atlantis, who are due to leave Wednesday.
"Sure beats the dollar an hour I used to get for baling hay," said Jerry Ross, an Indiana farmboy making his ninth spacewalk.
Ross and Lee Morin ventured out for the second time in four days. As they worked 240 miles up, Morin jokingly asked Ross whether they should be paid for four days, considering they were going to be experiencing four sunrises during their six hours outside.
"We couldn't pay them enough money for what we're getting to do," Ross replied.
Ross is flying for the seventh time in space, a world record, and may not get an eighth because of all the other astronauts in line. His nine spacewalks, totaling 58 hours, are a U.S. record.
The 54-year-old retired Air Force colonel savored the sights as he toiled outside, including a thunderstorm over the Pacific, the moon over the Atlantic and the space station he started building in 1998 on the first assembly mission.
"This is what I call a room with a view," he said.
As the 6-hour spacewalk came to an end, Ross received warm congratulations from his crewmates.
"Colonel Jerry Ross, on behalf of your nine crew members up here and the whole team on the ground and every little boy or girl that has ever wanted to spacewalk or ever worked on spacewalking suits or tools or procedures, congratulations on your record-setting ninth spacewalk. Great job. Great inspiration," said shuttle astronaut Steven Smith, in second place at NASA with seven spacewalks.
Replied Ross: "It's an honor to serve the country this way."
Ross and Morin -- nicknamed the Silver Team by their crewmates because they are both grandfathers -- installed a pair of 40-watt halogen lights on the space station.
The spacewalkers attached a 14-foot guide rail and smaller handholds to the girder and put shock absorbers on the railcar that rides a track on the beam. They also set up a radiation monitor outside the space station as well as a gas-sniffing gauge to detect any ammonia coolant leaks.
The framework will extend more than 350 feet by 2004 as more girders are added to the one delivered last week by Atlantis.
Ross and Morin, along with fellow spacewalkers Smith and Rex Walheim, spent more than 28 hours outside during their weeklong station visit. Almost all their work was with the $790 million girder and railcar.