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Russian spacewalkers encounter faulty equipment, install misaligned telescope mount

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - A pair of spacewalking Russian cosmonauts installed a new telescope mount on the International Space Station on Thursday, despite a flaw in the device.

Fyodor Yurchikhin and Aleksandr Misurkin — making their second spacewalk in under a week — initially gave up trying to plug in the platform for a yet-to-be-launched telescope.

Yurchikhin and Misurkin reported that the base of the platform appeared to be misaligned because it wasn't assembled properly on the ground. The problem could prevent the future telescope from pointing in the right direction.

But engineers with Russian Mission Control determined the misalignment could be overcome at a later date.

The swiveling platform will hold an optical telescope that will be launched in November and installed by spacewalking cosmonauts.

The spacewalkers also unfurled and waved a Russian flag that they took out in honour of Russia's Flag Day. "Now we can see the flag of our Motherland," one of the cosmonauts said in an impromptu speech.

The cosmonauts also ran into some difficulty tightening some antenna covers.

Because of a flyaway cover earlier this week, the cosmonauts double-checked the remaining shields to make sure they were secure. At least two were loose, one by a lot.

NASA said the lost cover posed no risk to the space station.

The U.S. space agency, meanwhile, has suspended all U.S. spacewalks while the investigation into last month's near-drowning continues. An Italian astronaut's helmet filled with water during a spacewalk on July 16. He barely made it back inside. The water is believed to have originated from the suit's cooling system.

The spacesuits used by the Russians are different.

This was the 173rd spacewalk at the space station. The four other space station residents — two Americans, one Italian and another Russian — watched the spacewalk from inside.

As for the defective spacesuit of Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, NASA said it will return part or all of the outfit early next year on a commercial SpaceX capsule.

___

Online:

NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html

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