By Irene Klotz
Tim Peake became the first astronaut representing Britain to walk in space when he left the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday to fix a power station problem, generating huge interest back in his homeland.
Peake and a NASA crewmate were scheduled to spend more than six hours outside the station, a $100 billion research laboratory that flies about 400 km above Earth.
“A proud moment,” said Peake, as he floated outside the airlock on a mission that included preparing the outpost for new commercial space taxis.
Peake, 43, a former army major, blasted off to the ISS as part of a six-month mission for the European Space Agency in December, becoming the first Briton in space since Helen Sharman travelled on a Soviet spacecraft for eight days in 1991, and the first to do so under a British flag.
His mission has attracted widespread attention in Britain, with his spacewalk beamed live on news channels.
“Good luck to @astro_timpeake on today’s space walk. The country will be watching you make history,” Prime Minister David Cameron wrote on Twitter.
After leaving the airlock around 8:00 am EST (1300 GMT), NASA crewmate Tim Kopra, 52, and Peake made their way to the far end of the station’s power truss, a 200-foot (61-meter) journey.
“Looking great out there on the top of the world,” astronaut Reid Wiseman radioed to the spacewalkers from Mission Control in Houston.
Peake and Kopra replaced a 200-pound (91 kg) voltage regulator that failed in November. The station has been operating smoothly with its remaining seven power channels, but NASA was concerned a second failure could be a problem.
Working in darkness when the solar arrays were not charging, Kopra and Peake removed the failed unit and replaced it with a spare.
They then plan to tackle some maintenance chores, including installing docking port cables for upcoming commercial space taxis.
Test flights of SpaceX’s passenger Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spaceships are expected in 2017.