Astronauts on International Space Station step out to grease robot hand

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Associated Press

NASA astronauts took another spacewalk outside the International Space Station today, this time to grease the robot arm's new hand.

Commander Randy Bresnik ventured out for the second time in less than a week, along with Mark Vande Hei.

The pair replaced the latching mechanism on one end of the 58-foot robot arm last week. The mechanism malfunctioned in August.

Today's work involved using a grease gun, which resembles a caulking gun, to keep the latching mechanism working smoothly. The two-part lube job is expected to spill into next week, in a third spacewalk.

These latches, or hands, are located on each end of the Canadian-built robot arm. They're used to grab arriving US cargo ships and also allow the robot arm to move around the orbiting lab.

Launched in 2001 with the rest of the robot arm, the original latches were showing their age. NASA plans to replace the latching mechanism on the opposite end of the arm early next year.

"I have a little bit of adrenaline going on right now," Vande Hei said as he got to work more than 401 kilometres above Rio de Janeiro.

"That view is amazing."

Six men live at the orbiting lab: three Americans, two Russians and one Italian.

As the space station approached Italy, Mission Control urged the spacewalkers to take some photos for their crewmate, Paolo Nespoli.

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