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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Final spacewalkers of Nasa's 30-year shuttle mission


Space Shuttle Endeavour astronaut Greg Chamitoff is seen outside the International Space Station in this photo taken by Mike Fincke

159 space walks totalling 1,000 hours to build the station and keep it running

These stunning images capture the final stage of the construction of the International Space Station.

But as they marked the beginning of a new era in space exploration, the spacewalk undertaken by Gregory Chamitoff and Mike Fincke also represented an end - of Nasa's 30-year shuttle programme.

All future spacewalks - including one during the final shuttle voyage this summer - will be performed by full-time space station residents.

The space shuttle Endeavour, seen docked to the International Space Station, will be returning to earth in just a few days as the Nasa space shuttle mission draws to a close

'This space station is the pinnacle of human achievement and international co-operation,' spacewalker Gregory Chamitoff observed before heading back inside.

'Twelve years of building and 15 countries and now it's the Parthenon in the sky and hopefully the doorstep to our future. So congratulations everybody on assembly complete.'

The two astronauts completed construction of the International Space Station with the smooth addition of an extension boom.

Mr Chamitoff said it was fitting for Endeavour to be present for the last spacewalk by a shuttle crew - conducted on the next-to-last flight of the shuttle era - since it was present for the first in December 1998. It was the fourth spacewalk in a week for the Endeavour astronauts, who will head back to Earth in just a few days.

Mr Chamitoff and his spacewalking partner, Mike Fincke, teamed up with robot arm operator Gregory Johnson to accomplish the last construction job.

The space shuttle Endeavour first made the voyage to the International Space Station in 1992

The Russian Soyuz capsule is seen docked to the International Space Station with the earth's horizon and the sun in the background

Mr Fincke is due to pass the US record of 377 days in space. He spent six months living on the space station - twice. This is his first shuttle trip; he previously rode Russian Soyuz rockets into orbit.

'I could not share this moment with a group of better people, including our friends on the ground,' he radioed.

Endeavour and its crew of six will leave the space station late on Sunday night. Landing is set for the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday during a rare touchdown in darkness.

The space shuttle Endeavour is seen docked to the International Space Station

source: dailymail


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