Originally created 10/09/01

Russians stage successful spacewalk outside space station



CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Two Russian cosmonauts ventured out on a spacewalk Monday and hooked up a crane, ladder and other equipment to the international space station's latest addition.

It was the first spacewalk conducted outside the station without a shuttle present.

Mikhail Tyurin and then Vladimir Dezhurov floated out of the Russian docking compartment that was brought up last month on an unmanned Russian rocket. The 16-foot-long module, named Pirs, Russian for Pier, doubles as an air lock.

"Shall we start?" one cosmonaut asked the other. "Yes!" was the enthusiastic reply.

Their American commander, NASA astronaut Frank Culbertson, monitored their work from inside the complex.

Russian Mission Control near Moscow supervised the spacewalk, which began in midmorning and lasted five hours, a little longer than planned.

Once outside, the cosmonauts quickly attached a cable for relaying data from Russian spacesuits. Next, four hand rails were installed, as well as thermal-insulating covers and a 6-foot ladder for helping spacewalkers go in and out. Finally, in the most complicated job, a 40-foot telescoping boom for moving spacewalkers and cargo was bolted into place.

When Russian flight controllers informed Tyurin they had a good TV view of him working on the crane, he joked: "I'm like a movie star. ... I'll have to do my best to look nice."

The cosmonauts did not get around to testing the crane. As time ran out, Russian Mission Control issued a gentle scolding. "Guys, stop entertaining yourselves, just go back to the hatch," a flight controller radioed. "We're walking, we're walking," one of the cosmonauts said.

Both cosmonauts wore Russian spacesuits. Unlike American spacesuits, the Russian outfits are not equipped with jet packs for emergency use. Instead, Tyurin and Dezhurov had two tethers each to attach to the 250-mile-high space station and they took extra care in moving around.

NASA officials said last week there was nothing that could be done if a cosmonaut's tether broke and he floated off into space. That's how it was during spacewalks outside Mir, too, they noted.

This was the 100th spacewalk by Russian cosmonauts since the first back in 1965, according to NASA.

Culbertson, Tyurin and Dezhurov moved into space station Alpha in August as the third resident crew. This was their first spacewalk; two more are planned over the next month.

The three are scheduled to return to Earth in December aboard space shuttle Endeavour.

On the Net:

NASA: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov