STAR CITY, Russia – The newly returned crew of the international space station said Tuesday they had accomplished all the necessary tasks in their six months on the orbiting station, even with a risky, unplanned space walk to replace a bad circuit breaker.
Speaking at their first news conference since touching down on the Kazakhstan steppe Sunday morning, cosmonaut Gennady Padalka and astronaut Michael Fincke said they were pleased with their work.
“I think we surprised some people, but because of the teamwork between the ground and among ourselves we got more done than anybody ever hoped for,” Fincke said. “We had an unexpected space walk and that took so much time to plan, and even then we more than fulfilled our scientific program.”
In June, the two men conducted a six-hour spacewalk to replace a bad circuit breaker and restore power to one of the gyroscopes that keeps the station steady and pointed in the right direction.
The spacewalk was considered riskier than most because there was no extra crew member to remain inside while two were outside working. In addition, the men had to use Russian suits not intended for that type of intensive manual repair work.
“The most memorable moment was the space walk,” Padalka said.
Padalka said that the 6-year-old station, while in good condition, was getting uncomfortably crowded with equipment and garbage.
“It is overloaded. There is quite a bit of equipment there that should be delivered to Earth,” Padalka said.
Space officials have warned the station was getting cluttered because there has been no garbage pickup by shuttles for nearly two years.
Russian rockets and the non-reusable Soyuz spacecraft have been the only way NASA can get to the space station and back since the U.S. shuttle fleet was grounded after the Columbia burned up on re-entry in February 2003, killing the seven astronauts aboard.
Fincke and Padalka praised the coordinated work of the two countries’ space control centers – in Houston and in Korolev, outside Moscow.
Fincke also said he was overjoyed at having a new daughter, Tarali, who was born while he was in orbit.
“I was so happy to see her,” he said. “I saw the stars in her eyes and knew that her mother named her correctly.” Tara means “star” in Hindi, he said.