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    Default The last spacewalk of the US shuttle era

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    Two American astronauts wrapped up the last spacewalk of National Aeronautics and Space Administration's space shuttle era at the International Space Station, where Atlantis is docked on the final mission of the 30-year US programme.

    Ronald Garan and Michael Fossum, already aboard the ISS as part of the six-member international Expedition 28 crew when Atlantis arrived on Sunday, successfully completed their repair and maintenance tasks at the lab.

    The main objective of retrieving a failed cooling ammonia pump from the orbiting outpost and placing it into the shuttle's payload for return to earth was tackled early in the six hour, 31 minute spacewalk.

    Soon after this astronauts Fossum and Garan installed a materials science experiment on the station's power truss, serviced a robot arm attachment fitting and installed a thermal cover over an unused docking port.

    Over the coming days, the combined crew will be transferring items from the Raffaello to the station and moving more than 2,540 kg of old station gear back into the module for the return to Earth.

    Atlantis's flight marks the end of an era for NASA, leaving Americans without their own vehicle for sending astronauts into space until private industry comes up with a new capsule, likely by 2015 at the earliest.

    With the shuttle gone, only Russia's three-seat Soyuz capsules will be capable of carrying astronauts to the ISS - at a cost of more than $50 million per seat. With the extra day in space, Atlantis is now scheduled to land back on Earth on July 21, mission control in Houston said.
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