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Astronauts conclude spacewalk to replace antenna at space station

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Astronauts conclude spacewalk to replace antenna at space station
The International Space Station is photographed from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during a fly-around of the orbiting lab Nov. 8. Photo courtesy of NASA

Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Two NASA astronauts successfully wrapped up a spacewalk Thursday to replace a communications antenna faster than expected outside the International Space Station.

The new antenna was installed at around 9:45 a.m. EST, which NASA said was almost 90 minutes ahead of schedule. The pair spent the next few hours performing additional tasks to help prepare for future spacewalks.

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The spacewalk concluded after six hours and 32 minutes. Thomas Marshburn, 61, and Kayla Barron, 34, powered on the new antenna and stowed the 21-year-old, degraded antenna before tackling the additional tasks.

As they re-entered the space station, Marshburn, who has completed five spacewalks, asked Barron how her first spacewalk went.

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"What did you think?" he said.

"It was awesome. Yeah," she replied.

Marshburn thanked ground crews for planning and guiding the spacewalk.

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"[You have] given us whatever we needed to succeed today. I congratulate everyone, I really appreciate it," he said.

"Everything you guys are doing is great. This is everything that we had hoped, this is perfect," a mission control communicator told the astronauts during the spacewalk.

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Marshburn and Barron had been ready for the spacewalk on Tuesday, but NASA waived off the expedition because of uncertainty about new space debris in the space station's orbital path.

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Concern about the space debris stemmed from a violent Russian anti-satellite test Nov. 15 that destroyed an old spacecraft and created a cloud of more than 15,000 pieces that are circling the Earth at thousands of miles per hour.

The pair stepped outside the space station around 6:15 a.m. EST Thursday, NASA said.

Although NASA approved Thursday's spacewalk, the agency has made it clear that the full extent of the debris risk won't be known for weeks.

Marshburn had been strapped onto a robotic crane outside the space station -- the Canadarm2 -- to provide him with leverage for work on the antenna. Astronaut Matthias Maurer, of the European Space Agency, controlled the robotic arm from inside the space station.

NASA maintains multiple channels and antennae to communicate with the space station. The new antenna installed Thursday previously had been bolted to the space station exterior for the fix.

The space station's international coalition has planned to support the orbiting laboratory only through 2028 -- or 2030 if international partners agree on an extension.

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NASA, SpaceX launch Crew-3 mission to ISS

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches NASA's third crew to the International Space Station at 9:03 p.m. November 10 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

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