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Spacewalking astronauts lose piece of shielding, floats away

Two astronauts are back inside following a spacewalk that took an unintended turn when a piece of equipment got away. Frustration was evident in Whitson's voice as she told Mission Control about the mishap.

On Thursday she performed her eighth spacewalk from the International Space Station, where she helped prepare a docking port that will one day be used by SpaceX and Boeing.

"Thank you guys, you did an fantastic job, you had to deal with, obviously, the issue early on and came up with a great plan", Kimbrough radioed flight controllers. Cameras tracked the shielding as it drifted into the distance, and Mission Control said there was no danger the lost shield could hit and damage the space station.

While not a ideal fit, the cover will help protect the station from impacts and provide thermal shielding, NASA said. It's supposed to be tethered to the station or spacewalker at all times. However, usually the items are small, like bolts.

The spacewalkers needed to hook up vital heater cables to the docking port and install shields to protect against strikes by micrometeorites. When unfolded, it is about 2 inches thick and measures about 5 feet by 2 feet.

More news: Tillerson Vows Safe Zones for Refugees, Increased Pressure on ISIS

Whitson is working with Commander Shane Kimbrough on the International Space Station Thursday to connect cables and install an updated computer relay box.

Yesterday's walkabout is the second in a series of three space walks to outfit the exterior of the orbiting outpost with parking spots for a new generation of space taxis ferrying astronauts to the station. It was one of four shield pieces to be installed in the hole left by a newly relocated docking port.

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson floated out on the eighth spacewalk of her career Thursday morning, 250 miles up at the International Space Station. A docking mechanism will be attached to the outboard end of the tunnel late this year or early next.

Whitson undertook her first space mission in 2002 and most recently launched into space in November a year ago, according to NPR. This is her third space station stint. Overall, she's spent more than 500 days off of planet earth-also more than any other woman. Shipper Orbital ATK is relying on the United Launch Alliance's Atlas V to haul up the goods.

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