CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The space station's two Russian astronauts stepped outside for the second time in less than a week Tuesday, taking a spacewalk that proved to be tame compared to last week's work with explosives.
Although Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko had a lengthy to-do list, none of the chores were notably complicated or dangerous this time around.
They quickly installed a docking target to be used when a new Russian mini research module arrives next year and the crew size doubles.
But Kononenko had trouble taking pictures of the target; he couldn't aim his camera the right way as he dangled at the end of a 50-foot boom, his body rotating at times.
With Volkov steering the boom from its base and Kononenko on the opposite end, the two looked as though they were riding a giant seesaw.
"I don't know what the camera is going to cover, but I'm taking pictures," Kononenko said.
Russia's Mission Control outside Moscow urged the spacewalkers to photograph themselves as well. "Beloved," Mission Control teased.
Later, the pair installed a new science experiment to the outside of the international space station and brought back in an experiment that looked at cosmic effects on bacteria and fungi over the past year. They also straightened a stuck radio antenna and rearranged some foot restraints. Cameras, meanwhile, zoomed in on debris — possibly flakes of paint from a handrail — tumbling away.
As the six-hour spacewalk neared its end, one of the spacewalkers said: "Please let me go home. I guess we've done it all for today."
The Russian Space Agency originally planned just one spacewalk for Volkov and Kononenko. But another spacewalk was added and took priority to remove an explosive bolt from the Soyuz capsule parked at the space station; the unprecedented work was carried out successfully Thursday by the pair.
The explosives in the bolt had as much force as a big M-80 firecracker and could have blown off their hands. The bolt was placed in a blast-proof cylinder and taken back into the space station; the two Russians will carry it with them when they fly back to Earth in the Soyuz in October.
Russian space officials want to avoid the steep, off-course descents that shook up the last two returning Soyuz crews. Engineers still do not know what went wrong, but suspect some of the explosive bolts may not have fired properly.
As he did last week, American astronaut Gregory Chamitoff retreated into the Soyuz for the entire spacewalk. Space station officials wanted him in the capsule in case an emergency arose and the spacewalkers had to join him there.
Volkov and Kononenko have been living at the space station since April. Chamitoff arrived last month on space shuttle Discovery.