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Astronauts working outside the International Space Station (ISS) succeeded in repairing a torn solar array in one of the riskiest space walks ever.
A National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) spokesperson said Saturday that the procedure, one of the most complicated in the history of the space station, was declared a success after US physician-astronaut Scott Parazynski managed to install five links to repair the two rips in the panel.
Parazynski and his countryman Doug Wheelock worked for some five hours on the mission's fourth space walk.
The solar panel - the oldest on the ISS - was damaged while astronauts were trying to move and deploy it earlier this week. The mishap prompted NASA ground control to cancel the remaining space walks.
The repairs were needed to boost the space station's power supply, which must be increased to support more than the three-member ISS crew and to run the new European and Japanese modules scheduled to be installed in future shuttle missions to expand the space station.
Parazynski faced dangers, including electric shock and cuts, after leaving the orbiting ISS to begin the mending job, 200 km above the earth surface. Back at NASA'S Houston headquarters, engineers watched his work anxiously on their monitors.
The solar panel was still generating electricity so the space walk was conducted with insulated tools.
To get Parazynski to the damaged solar array, a long boom was attached to the end of the shuttle's robotic arm. He was attached to the boom with a boot lock, and then manoeuvred to the site, farther from the station than is normal on space walks.