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Cosmonauts wrap up tiring 7.5-hour Russian spacewalk

By Irene and Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL Fla. (Reuters) - A pair of Russian cosmonauts wrapped up a tiring and unexpectedly long spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Thursday, successfully installing a new antenna and tackling other chores.

Flight engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev left the station's Pirs airlock shortly after 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT) for what was expected to be 6-1/2 hours of work outside Russia's Zvezda service module. The spacewalk was broadcast live on NASA Television.

The spacewalkers ran into problems with their first task – installing a new communications antenna. After struggling with balky clamps and latches, the cosmonauts ended up using a wire tie to secure the antenna to Zvezda.

“It’s connected well. I don’t see any problems with it,” one of the spacewalkers said, via a translator.

It was the first spacewalk for both men who, along with station commander Steve Swanson, have been aboard the orbital outpost for almost three months. They were joined on May 28 by three more crewmembers, including NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, who has been documenting his time in space on Twitter.

“Pretty neat up here right now - two Russian crewmates are spacewalking, but business as usual for me and @astro_alex,” Wiseman wrote, referring colleague and fellow space-tweeter, Alexander Gerst, with the European Space Agency.

“Just changed a lightbulb. FYI – only one astronaut (and a small ground team) required,” Wiseman quipped earlier on Twitter.

Similar maintenance chores awaited spacewalkers Skvortsov and Artemyev, albeit with a much better view. The station, a $100 billion research laboratory owned by 15 nations, flies about 260 miles (420 km) above Earth.

The cosmonauts’ to-do list included inspecting latches, relocating a science experiment and collecting samples of residue on one of Zvezda’s windows.

They also moved two science equipment onto a new boom and discard the old mounting into orbit. The trash eventually will be pulled back into Earth’s atmosphere and burn up.

The work ended up taking almost 7.5 hours.

“It’s time to go back. I’m hungry, thirsty,” one of the spacewalkers said. “We want hot tea.”

Skvortsov and Artemiev are due to make another spacewalk in August.

(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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