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MacGyver in space? Astronauts fix space station with toothbrush. (+video)

Using makeshift tools that included a spare toothbrush, a pair of spacewalking astronauts successfully fixed a vital power system aboard the International Space Station.

By Denise ChowSPACE.com / September 6, 2012

Spacewalker Akihiko Hoshide rides the International Space Station's robotic arm to a work site on the space station's backbone-like truss during a spacewalk on Sept. 5, 2012.

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It took hard work, determination and some MacGyver-esque ingenuity for a pair of spacewalking astronauts to fix a key power system aboard the International Space Station Wednesday (Sept. 5).

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Suni Williams broke the world record for most amount of time spent Spacewalking for a female astronaut today as she passed the record that was held by Peggy Whitson at 39 Hours and 46 minutes.

Suni is currently taking part in a planned 6 Hour, 30 Minute spacewalk to install a new Main Bus Switching Unit (MBSU) on the truss outside the International Space Station.

NASA spaceflyer Sunita Williams and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide spent nearly 6 1/2 hours yesterday outside in the vacuum of space to properly install a pair of bolts that had caused problems for the pair during a previous spacewalk last week.

In addition to their regular spacewalking gear, Williams and Hoshide were armed with some makeshift tools — including an improvised wire cleaner and a toothbrush — to help them get the job done.

On Aug. 30, Williams and Hoshide completed a marathon spacewalk that lasted more than 8 hours, but the astronauts were thwarted by a stubborn bolt and were unable to finish connecting the so-called main bus switching unit (MBSU). The stuck bolt forced NASA to add Wednesday's extra spacewalk.

But, following last week's unsuccessful attempt, flight controllers, engineers and veteran spacewalkers worked around the clock at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston to devise a solution to the problem. Using only the supplies available on the space station, the teams came up with creative new tools for Williams and Hoshide to use to install the MBSU.

One was a modified toothbrush that was used to lubricate the inside of the bolt's housing after debris and metal shavings from inside had been removed. Another improvised instrument included a cleaning tool that had been made from wires that were bent back to form a brush, explained Kieth Johnson, lead spacewalk director at the Johnson Space Center. [Photos: Spacewalkers Fix Space Station Power Unit]

"We knew that we had particles down inside the socket, so they came outside with yet another tool that was developed by the ground team," Johnson told reporters in a post-spacewalk news briefing.

The inventive ideas that led to today's spacewalk success demonstrates how well the teams on the ground and in orbit work together, and shows the dedication of those involved in the agency's space station program, said flight director Ed Van Cise.

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