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Astronauts venture out on spacewalk

March 10, 2009 12:10:05 PM PDT
Two astronauts at the International Space Station ventured out on a spacewalk Tuesday to complete some maintenance work before the shuttle Discovery arrives later this week. The spacewalk was expected to last 6 hours.

American commander Mike Fincke and Yuri Lonchakov, a Russian, were eager to wrap up some chores that they did not get to during a spacewalk just before Christmas. Lonchakov used a long knife to trim six straps that flapped around whenever an unmanned cargo ship would arrive.

Back on Earth, plans for Wednesday night's launch of the shuttle Discovery are on track for liftoff. The launch has been delayed for about a month due to problems with some propulsion system valves.

Forecasters put the odds of good launch weather at 90 percent.

"The weather is looking very good for launch, I'm happy to say, and of course we're going to have that full moon out, so that's going to be really nice, too," shuttle weather officer Kathy Winters said Tuesday.

If Discovery blasts off Wednesday night, it will arrive at the space station on Friday.

The shuttle and its six-man crew will deliver one last set of solar wings for the International Space Station. It will also carry up a new urine processor for the space station's water recycling program. The processor that was delivered in November on the last shuttle flight has malfunctioned repeatedly.

Astronaut Sandra Magnus, the third space station resident, remained inside throughout Tuesday's spacewalk. She will wrap up a four-month stay once Discovery arrives with her replacement.