ORLANDO, Fla., Nov. 18 (UPI) -- Two cosmonauts re-entered the International Space Station late Wednesday afternoon EST after a spacewalk that used an airlock on a Russian module for the first time.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins helped the Russians don their spacesuits and monitored the spacewalk from inside the space station, which has the largest crew living on board in recent years.
Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov spent a little more than 30 minutes verifying pressure in the airlock on the space station's Russian Poisk module.
They began the spacewalk at 10:12 a.m. EST, about 42 minutes later than scheduled, and spent 6 hours, 48 minutes on their chores.
During the walk, the spacewalkers helped to prepare another Russian section of the space station, the Pirs module, for retirement. The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, plans in April to detach the Pirs module, which was launched into space in 2001.
A Russian capsule will carry the module lower into the atmosphere until it burns up.
Besides repairs, the cosmonauts repositioned an instrument used to measure residue from thruster firings. They also retrieved and replaced hardware that measures space debris impacts.
The two men used towels to wipe off their spacesuits following the recovery of the space debris instrument before re-entering the space station, and they threw those towels off into space.
The Russian spacewalkers used an airlock on the Russian Poisk module for the first time, and also inspected the airlock, according to NASA. The duo salvaged an antenna from the Pirs module and reconnected it to the Poisk, among other tasks.
The cosmonauts were unable to install a new fluid flow regulator on the Russian Zarya module, the first section of the space station, which was launched in 1998. They are to try again at another time.
Decommissioning Pirs, which has an airlock and docking ports for cargo and crew vessels, will make way for the long-awaited Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module, named Nauka -- Russian for science.
Roscosmos is preparing the Nauka lab for launch from Kazakhstan in spring 2021. The module includes its own thrusters, an activity area and crew resting space, in addition to a science laboratory.
Nauka has been under development and construction for over 20 years and will be the first major Russian addition to the space station in 10 years, according to Russian media. The space community recently marked the 20th anniversary of people living aboard the orbiting space platform.
Seven people are living aboard the orbiting platform for the first time in years, prompting NASA to accelerate science and exploration aboard the laboratory.
Spacewalker Ryzhikov is the commander of the current space station crew, Expedition 64, which includes Rubins.
The event was the 47th Russian spacewalk and the first for both cosmonauts.