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Ex-army major becomes first British astronaut to take a space walk (Updated)

Expedition 46 flight engineer Tim Peake of Britain performs a spacewalk outside the International Space Station

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.

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