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ISS crew stretches legs in space

First time out since Shuttle's return

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The crew of the International Space Station has performed the first spacewalk since Shuttle's return to flight.

The mission was not an extraordinary one: NASA astronaut Bill McArthur and Russian cosmonaut Valery Tokarev installed a new camera on the station, removed a broken electronics box and took down a defunct science probe.

The Floating Potential Probe was a long-finished experiment dating back to 2000 that was designed to investigate the electrical environment around the station's solar arrays. On the last shuttle visit to the station NASA noticed that the experiment was broken and had pieces missing, so they decided to take it down.

The probe was discarded and should burn up in the Earth's atmosphere in around 100 days time.

As to the rest of the to-do list, the TV camera has been installed to help monitor future construction work on the station, and the faulty electronics box will be sent back to Earth so that ground crews can work out why it failed.

The walk was also the first in US spacesuits since April 2003. In the interim, excursions to the outside have presumably been conducted in Russian kit. ®

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