Washington: Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams set a new record for total cumulative spacewalk time by a female astronaut with her sixth space walk to repair a faulty power distribution unit.
Williams surpassed Peggy Whitson’s record during Wednesday’s excursion as she and her Japanese counterpart Akihiko Hoshide used a toothbrush and a wire brush fashioned out of a spare cable to restore power to the International Space Station.
The spacewalk lasted 6 hours 28 minutes. Williams has now worked outside the station for a total of 44 hours and 2 minutes overtaking Whitson who worked outside for 39 hours and 46 minutes over the course of six spacewalks, US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced.
Peggy Whitson sent up congratulations, saying, “You go, girl!” Williams replied: “Anybody could be in these boots.”
Williams and Hoshide had to go into space for the second time in less than a week to complete repairs on the main power unit switching mechanism, the repairing of which ran into problems earlier this week.
It appeared that there was significant debris, especially metal shavings, that had accumulated inside the bolts and was preventing them from attaching it to the space craft and securing the unit.
With repeated attempts to clean out the bolts with a wire brush failing, they fastened a simple toothbrush to a metal pole. And that worked.
“Looks like you guys just fixed the station,” astronaut Jack Fischer radioed from Mission Control at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas.
Daughter of an Indian American father from Gujarat and a Slovenian mother, Williams holds three records for female space travellers: longest spaceflight (195 days), number of spacewalks (six) and total time spent on spacewalks (44 hours and 2 minutes).
She is the second woman of Indian heritage to have been selected by NASA for a space mission after Kalpana Chawla and the second astronaut of Slovenian heritage after Ronald M. Sega.