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Trouble With Suit Cuts Spacewalk Short

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - A spacewalk aimed at swapping out batteries at the International Space Station was cut short Wednesday when NASA flight surgeons spotted elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the spacesuit of one of the astronauts.

Endeavour mission specialists Dave Wolf and Chris Cassidy were only able to install two of four batteries they had planned to put in place. The four nickel-hydrogen batteries have outlived their 6.5-year design. Each weighs 375 pounds and cost $3.6 million.

"I guess we're getting off early today," Wolf said after the two were back inside the station's airlock.

"We'll get the rest on Thursday," Cassidy said.

Flight surgeons blamed the problem on the carbon dioxide scrubber in Cassidy's suit.

Astronauts work in pressurized spacesuits in a vacuum environment where a tear on a sharp object could lead to certain death. The suits are so bulky it's akin to trying to swap out a car battery while wearing boxing gloves.

"It looks easy," NASA space station flight director Brian Smith said prior to Wednesday's spacewalk. "(But) don't let that mislead you. ... It is complicated and you have to be extremely careful."

Cassidy and Endeavour mission specialist Tom Marshburn had planned to swap out the last two of six batteries at the far end of the station's central truss. Now mission managers likely will have them attempt to swap four of them.

The spacewalk Wednesday was the 128th done in the assembly and maintenance of the station, the first two building blocks of which were linked in low Earth orbit in late 1998.

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