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Astronauts finish last mission spacewalk

Associated Press / May 22, 2010

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Spacewalking astronauts finished putting in a new six-pack of batteries at the International Space Station yesterday, a $22 million power overhaul that was their last major objective.

It was the third and final spacewalk this week for the visiting crew of shuttle Atlantis.

Within three hours of floating outside, Garrett Reisman and Michael Good had plugged in the remaining two new batteries. Four were installed during Wednesday’s spacewalk by Good and another spaceman.

“The batteries are done,’’ one of the spacewalkers said. “Yeah!’’ shouted the other. “Can you believe it?’’

Replacing the station’s original 10-year-old batteries was harder than it sounded. There were many bolts to undo then redo and the batteries were bulky: 3-foot-wide boxes, 375 pounds apiece.

With shuttle flights ending this year and another decade of space station operation looming, NASA wanted the orbiting outpost to have all fresh batteries. Six batteries were replaced last summer. The nickel-hydrogen batteries are charged by the solar wings and provide electrical power to the space station during darkness.

Each one cost $3.6 million, or nearly $22 million for a pack of six.

The removed batteries were packed aboard a platform for Atlantis’s trip home next week.

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