Astronauts take spacewalk No. 3 after suit snag

A pair of astronauts zipped through the third and final spacewalk of their mission Monday, helping to install a 1,200-pound (544-kilogram) oxygen tank at the International Space Station and accomplishing everything else on their list.

“You mean there's nothing left for us to do?” Randolph Bresnik asked as the spacewalk wrapped up. He was assured no work remained.

Bresnik, still celebrating the weekend birth of his daughter, Abigail Mae, was jazzed for the excursion.

“Hey, Wyatt, I look just like Spider-Man,” he called out to his 3½-year-old son as he clambered along the station's latticelike framework.

Bresnik and Dr. Robert Satcher Jr., the first orthopedic surgeon in space, tackled their biggest spacewalking chore early, removing the from a newly delivered cargo platform on the station and then letting a robot arm take it from there.

The tank — about 5 feet (1.5 meters) by 6 feet (1.8 meters) — was moved and attached to the NASA air lock, a chamber leading out to the vacuum of space. It was filled with high-pressure oxygen for future spacewalks. The spacewalkers hooked up the gas line for the tank, then opened and closed a valve for a leak check.

The new dad's enthusiasm was infectious. Satcher took some photographs for his Twitter followers.

“Need to give a shot to the Twitterverse,” said the doctor, who goes by ZeroG_MD on the Web site.

At the end of the 5½-hour spacewalk, Bresnik noted that he got to see his infant daughter for the first time Sunday.

“It was the most wonderful thing I've seen since I left Earth,” he said.

The two Atlantis astronauts managed to get ahead of schedule, even though they floated out the hatch an hour late. They were delayed reattaching a valve on the drink bag in Satcher's suit to make sure big blobs of water didn't float up into his eyes during the spacewalk.

Satcher and Bresnik kept the speedy momentum of the mission's first two spacewalks going. They hung up science experiments; removed two orbital debris shields from the air lock to make room for the oxygen tank; and then cinched the panels down.

They also loosened a bolt on an ammonia tank to help future spacewalkers and worked on some fluid jumper lines.

All the hustling caused the astronauts to work up an appetite.

“Hey, Bobby, if we happen to pass a burger joint in the next few thousand miles, I wouldn't mind stopping and getting something,” Bresnik said. Satcher was craving nachos.

NASA officials said they couldn't be more satisfied with the spacewalks. The space agency ended the year with 22, just one shy of the record.

The two crews will close the hatches between their spacecraft Tuesday, and Atlantis will undock Wednesday. The shuttle and its crew of seven will aim for a landing at Kennedy Space Center on Friday.

Rebecca Bresnik, meanwhile, was said to be doing well with her new baby. She delivered the girl in Houston just hours after her husband's first-ever spacewalk Saturday.

On Sunday, Bresnik proudly wore a black “it's a girl” T-shirt, passed out pink bubble gum cigars to his 11 spacemates, and showed off a pink onesie emblazoned with his crew's mission patch.

Science and TechnologyUS

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