Astronauts Perform First Spacewalk of 2017

The astronauts will plug in new lithium-ion batteries for storing solar power

Astronauts up on the International Space Station are starting the new year with a pair of spacewalks, first heading out on Friday at 7 a.m. (ET) and then again on Jan. 13.

Commander Shane Kimbrough said Tuesday his New Year's resolution is to ace the spacewalks to hook up new batteries.

"All of our focus right now is on those," he said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Just to have those be successful, and everything to go well, would be a great resolution."

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson — at age 56 the world's oldest and most experienced spacewoman — will go spacewalking on Friday with Kimbrough. French astronaut Thomas Pesquet will team up with Kimbrough for next week's excursion.

The astronauts will plug in new lithium-ion batteries for storing solar power. To save time, ground controllers in Houston already have removed the old-style batteries that date back a decade or more, and positioned the new ones, using the space station's robotics.

Whitson said her body has adapted faster to space this time around, and seems to remember what it's like to be weightless. Her last spaceflight was in 2008. Altogether, she's spent well over a year in space.

"I love being in space," she said. "I sleep like a baby. I mean, it is amazing the great sleep. Nothing hurts when you're lying in bed. You can sleep the whole night through. It's great."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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