Cosmonauts complete spacewalk

In this image from video made available by NASA, cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin, left, and Aleksandr Misurkin wave a Russian flag near the end of their spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013. AP Photo/NASA

Cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin completed a five-hour 58-minute spacewalk today, installing a camera-aiming platform on the hull of the International Space Station after engineers concluded it would work properly despite a misaligned attachment plate.

The cosmonauts also inspected and tightened up a series of antenna covers, collected particulate samples from the hatch of the Poisk module and brought a laser communications experiment back inside that they removed earlier to make way for the camera aiming system

Cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Aleksandr Misurkin participate in a spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013.

Just before floating back into the Pirs airlock module, Yurchikhin and Misurkin unfurled a red, white and blue Russian flag in the vacuum of space to mark Russian Flag Day, commemorating the raising of the current Russian flag over the Supreme Soviet building in Moscow in the wake of a failed coup in 1991.

"It's a wonderful day. The people might think this is just a performance, that this was actually staged somewhere in the Moscow suburbs," Yurchikhin joked. "No, guys. This is space, as real as can be. Now we can see the flag of our motherland.

"Congratulations to everyone on this, a day of Russia's flag. Please remember to value it and respect it. Then we'll be respecting ourselves and be respected by others."

The cosmonauts then re-entered the Pirs airlock and closed the hatch at 1:32 p.m. EDT (GMT-4) to bring Russian EVA-35 to an end.

This was the 173rd spacewalk devoted to station assembly and maintenance since construction began in 1998, the seventh so far this year, the eighth for Yurchikhin and the third for Misurkin. With today's EVA, Yurchikhin moved from 12th to 5th on the list of most experienced spacewalkers, with an accumulated total of 51 hours and 53 minutes.

Overall, 112 astronauts and cosmonauts representing nine nations have now logged 1,088 hours and 49 minutes of station EVA time, or 45.4 days.

The cosmonauts had four primary goals: to replace a laser communications experiment with a platform carrying a camera aiming system; to inspect six low-gain antennas to make sure protective covers were firmly in place; to collect particulate samples from the Poisk module; and to reposition a foot restraint for an upcoming spacewalk.

They had no trouble removing the laser package, but when they tried to install the work platform/camera aiming system, they discovered the attachment plate was bolted on in the wrong orientation.

After mulling the problem, flight controllers told the cosmonauts to take the assembly back to the airlock and to press on with other activities. But they eventually changed their minds, deciding the camera aiming mechanism could compensate for the incorrect orientation of the mounting plate.

The cosmonauts retrieved the assembly from the airlock and installed it on the right side of the Zvezda command module as planned.

Later this year, a Canadian company plans to launch a pair of cameras that will be mounted on the platform during a December spacewalk to beam back near realtime high-definition pictures of Earth to cell phones and other devices around the world.

With the camera platform in place, Yurchikhin and Misurkin inspected the antenna covers, three at each end of the command module. During a spacewalk last week, one of six covers somehow came loose and floated away.

During today's inspection, the cosmonauts discovered several loose covers, including one with missing screws. They tightened them up and worked through the rest of their checklist.

The only task that did not get completed was repositioning a foot restraint needed for an upcoming spacewalk. That work will be done during a future EVA.

  • William Harwood

    Bill Harwood has been covering the U.S. space program full-time since 1984, first as Cape Canaveral bureau chief for United Press International and now as a consultant for CBS News. He has covered more than 125 shuttle missions, every interplanetary flight since Voyager 2's flyby of Neptune, and scores of commercial and military launches. Based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Harwood is a devoted amateur astronomer and co-author of "Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia." You can follow his frequent status updates at the CBS News Space page.