(AP) A pair of Russian cosmonauts, making their second spacewalk in under a week, tried to swap an old laser experiment for a new telescope mount at the International Space Station on Thursday. But they quickly ran into equipment trouble and had to give up.
Fyodor Yurchikhin and Aleksandr Misurkin struggled to install the 6-foot platform for the yet-to-be-launched telescope. It appeared as though the platform was misaligned because of improper assembly on the ground, which could prevent the future telescope from pointing in the right direction.
Russian Mission Control instructed the spacewalkers to rotate the device, then debated for several more minutes what to do. Ultimately, they told the cosmonauts to give up and bring the platform back inside.
"We have different objectives. We cannot spend a lot of time here," one of the cosmonauts complained.
Earlier, the spacewalkers had no problem removing and bagging the laser communication experiment, even though it was tough working in that location.
"Tight quarters up here as far as anything to grab onto," one of the cosmonauts commented in Russian. "You got that right," replied the other.
The spacewalkers' remaining chore: inspecting six antennas attached to Russia's main space station compartment.
On Monday, an antenna cover came off and floated away. Russian space officials want to know which antenna lost its protective shield. The spacewalkers also needed to double-check the remaining covers to make sure they're secure.
NASA said the flyaway cover posed no risk to the 260-mile-high outpost.
NASA, 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 same two cosmonauts Thursday also stepped out last Friday, performing advance cable hookups for a new Russian lab that's supposed to lift off from Kazakhstan sometime next year. The launch had been targeted for December, but recently was delayed until at least spring.
Early in Thursday's spacewalk, Russian Mission Control jokingly blared a few seconds of pop music into the cosmonauts' headsets.
"You want to keep the music on the loop?" Mission Control asked. "Well, if it's possible, yes," one of the spacewalkers replied.
"Are you already that tired of me that you want to listen to music instead of my voice?" Mission Control teased.
The reply from orbit: "Please, we never get tired of you."
The swiveling platform, which should have been installed Thursday, was to hold an optical telescope that will be launched in November and installed by spacewalking cosmonauts a month later.
Yurchikhin and Misurkin were instructed to take the laser equipment inside at the end of their spacewalk. The gear eventually will be junked.
This was the 173rd spacewalk at the space station, coming up on the 15th anniversary of the launch of its first part. The four other space station residents two Americans, one Italian and another Russian kept tabs on 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. That will be the first opportunity to get cargo back on Earth. The three-person Russian Soyuz spacecraft are too small for big extra pieces, and the Russian supply ships burn up upon re-entry, doubling as trash cans.