By Irene Klotz
(Reuters) - Two Russian cosmonauts wrapped up a speedy, 3 -1/2-hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Wednesday to replace science experiments and jettison two unneeded antennas.
Station commander Maxim Suraev and flight engineer Alexander Samokutyaev quickly completed the first task on their to-do list, removing and jettisoning a defunct science experiment known as Radiometriya. The device, which was installed in 2011, was used to track seismic activity on earth, NASA mission commentator Rob Navias said during a live broadcast of the spacewalk on NASA TV.
Suraev and Samokutyaev then removed a protective cover from a European science experiment that exposes seeds, bacteria spores, fungi, ferns and other samples to the harsh environment of space.
The cosmonauts, both making their second spacewalks, cut cables, removed bolts and tossed away two obsolete antennas from the Poisk mini-research module. The antennas, used to guide visiting spacecraft to docking ports, will remain in orbit for up to a year before Earth’s gravity tugs them back into the atmosphere, where they will incinerate.
Suraev and Samokutyaev also took samples from a window and photographed the outside of the Russian part of the station for an engineering analysis.
The spacewalk, originally planned for six hours, was finished in 3 hours and 38 minutes. The cosmonauts left the station’s Pirs module at 9:28 a.m. EDT as the complex sailed 260 miles (418 km) above the planet.
“Everything was very well done,” an interpreter for the Russian Mission Control Center outside Moscow said during the broadcast.
The spacewalk was the third in three weeks and the seventh and last outing planned for this year. Next year, NASA plans up to 10 spacewalks to reconfigure the station for the arrival of commercial space taxis, which are expected to begin flying crews to the outpost in 2017.
The station is a $100 billion research laboratory owned and operated by a partnership of 15 nations.
(Reporting by Irene Klotz in New York; Editing by Grant McCool)