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Spacewalking astronauts replace blurry camera on robot arm

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Spacewalking astronauts provided some necessary focus to the International Space Station’s robot arm on Friday.

Astronaut Joe Acaba unbolted a blurry camera from a new robotic hand installed two weeks ago. He then popped in a spare, which flight controllers quickly tested from Houston. The replacement provided crisp, clear views.

Sharp focus is essential when the space station’s robot hand grabs an arriving supply ship and anchors it. The next delivery is a few weeks away, prompting the quick camera swap-out.

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NASA decided near the end of the spacewalk that Acaba’s jetpack was no longer reliable and ordered him back inside, about six hours after the walk began.

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One of Acaba’s jetpack handles kept popping out during the spacewalk, but NASA said his tethers were solid and he was in no danger. The jetpack is used only if a spacewalker’s multiple tethers fail.

Orbital ATK, one of NASA’s commercial shippers, plans to launch a cargo ship from Virginia on Nov. 11.

Acaba and the station’s commander, Randy Bresnik, were supposed to go spacewalking earlier this week. But NASA needed extra time to add the camera repair to their chores.

This was the third spacewalk in two weeks for the space station’s US residents. Bresnik performed the first two with Mark Vande Hei.

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Friday’s spacewalk — expected to be the last one for the year — also saw the astronauts lubricating the new robotic hand, installing a high-definition camera, replacing a fuse, and removing thermal insulation from spare electronics.

Early next year, astronauts will replace the hand on the opposite side of the 58-foot robot arm. Its original latching mechanisms are worn.

ASSOCIATED PRESS