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Chicago doctor makes first spacewalk

November 19, 2009 9:46:44 AM PST
Astronaut Dr. Richard Satcher Jr. called the view of the 220 miles below him "beautiful" during his first spacewalk on Thursday. The Chicago surgeon was soaring over South America when he first left the hatch of the International Space Station, where his shuttle, Atlantis, is docked.

Dr. Satcher is on his mission in space. On Thursday he will tackle some antenna and cable work at the space station.

Dr. Satcher, the first orthopedic surgeon in space, was awed by the view 220 miles below. "Beautiful," he murmured. His partner Michael Foreman, a veteran spacewalker, couldn't resist poking a little fun.

"Hard to believe, Bobby, I think your feet look bigger from space," Foreman joked.

Two more spacewalks are planned in coming days to perform space station maintenance and get the orbiting outpost ready for the next shuttle visitors.

Atlantis will remain at the space station until Wednesday.

Already, the 12 space travelers have unloaded several tons of pumps, tanks and other big spare parts that came up on Atlantis. They took care of that just hours after the shuttle docked at the station Wednesday.

All the gear should keep the space station operating well past next fall's shuttle retirement.

The shuttle is the only craft large enough to haul these oversize pieces for the space station. That's why NASA is so keen on flying the parts now, long before they're needed.

NASA plans to keep the outpost running until at least 2015.

Five more shuttle missions remain, all devoted to space station work.

Astronaut Nicole Stott, who's winding up a nearly three-month space mission, celebrated her 47th birthday Thursday. She'll have to wait until the shuttle brings her back at the end of next week to blow out her candles. Flames are verboten in orbit.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report. All Rights Reserved.)


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