Published: Sat, April 01, 2017
Sci-tech | By Jose Becker

U.S. astronaut Peggy Whitson breaks Sunita Williams' spacewalking record

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson floated out on the eighth spacewalk of her career Thursday morning, 250 miles up at the International Space Station.

But her accomplishments don't stop there.

Thursday's walkabout is the second in a series of three spacewalks to outfit the exterior of the orbiting outpost with parking spots for a new generation of space taxis ferrying astronauts to the station. She has spent more than 500 days off the planet.

Whitson is set to make her next spacewalk sometime next month, when she will become the third most experienced spacewalker, male or female. Cameras tracked the shielding as it drifted into the distance, and Mission Control said there was no danger the lost shield could hit and damage the space station.

The space blanket was one of four covers created to guard the station from micrometeoroids, and also for thermal protection.

You can see the actual event happen in the gif below, which occurred about midway through their seven-hour spacewalk. Yet now Peggy seems to have broken that limit by accumulating a total of 53 hours and 22 minutes.

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Thomas Pesquet, a European Space Agency astronaut conducted last week's Friday spacewalk with Kimbrough, where they disconnected cables and electrical connections on the PMA-3.

On Thursday, March 30, 2017, Whitson set a record for the most spacewalks by a woman, eight, as she works on preparations for a new docking port on the ISS. It was her 8th EVA or extra-vehicular activity, which is the most ever performed by a woman.

NASA says they'll know well in advance if there's any risk of the object flying back in and colliding with the space station, but at this stage, that's highly unlikely. She is scheduled to return to Earth in June, but is now looking to extend her space stay until September, should the US secure an extra seat on the Russian spacecraft Soyuz, scheduled to return to the planet that same month.

"We call that officially the yee-haw ride", Whitson told NASA television last week.

Whitson is married to fellow NASA biochemist Clarence Sams.According to her NASA bio, her hobbies include weightlifting, biking, basketball and water skiing.

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