CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- US astronaut Sunita L. Williams has now spent more time spacewalking than any other woman. Williams set the record yesterday as she and a crewmate upgraded the international space station's cooling system.
Williams, a former resident of Needham, Mass., broke the female spacewalking record of more than 21 hours set by former astronaut Kathy Thornton, NASA said. The new mark is 22 hours, 27 minutes.
Williams, a flight engineer, and expedition commander Michael Lopez-Alegria completed the second of what could be a precedent-setting three spacewalks in nine days.
During the spacewalk, which lasted more than seven hours, small amounts of toxic ammonia leaked from a fluid line. The liquid ammonia, which freezes into flakes when it hits the vacuum of space, did not appear to touch either astronaut.
Mission Control told them to continue their task of hooking up ammonia fluid lines from a temporary cooling system to a permanent one. Once they were back in the space station's airlock, Mission Control had the astronauts test for contamination. The test was negative.
A tiny bit of ammonia also leaked Wednesday, during the first spacewalk by Lopez-Alegria and Williams.
Mission Control told them to take precautions because ammonia could cause respiratory problems for the three-person crew if enough of it got into the space station.
"They look like pinpoints," Lopez-Alegria said of the flakes yesterday. "They don't look like what we saw the other day, but they are coming out with some velocity."
Williams, 41, is a Navy commander and former naval test pilot and trainer. She has a master's degree in engineering.
During the spacewalk, Lopez-Alegria and Williams hooked up the permanent cooling system, covered an obsolete radiator that was retracted by remote control from the ground, and stowed a fluid line that was connected to an ammonia reservoir.