(AP) -- A pair of astronauts ventured out on a spacewalk Monday, the first of three this week, to install a spare antenna on the International Space Station.
Atlantis crewmen Garrett Reisman and Stephen Bowen had to be careful handling the fragile 6-foot dish antenna. The shuttle delivered the antenna and other spare station parts Sunday.
NASA wants to stockpile as much equipment at the space station as possible before the shuttle program ends. Only two more missions remain. For space shuttle Atlantis, though, this is it.
Reisman and Bowen popped open the hatch as the shuttle-station complex soared 220 miles above the snow-covered bottom of South America. "That's awesome," said Reisman. He emerged a few minutes later as the spacecraft flew over Rio de Janeiro. "Bright, sunny day out here," he observed.
Besides the antenna work, the two planned to hook up a storage platform for the station's Canadian-built robot, named Dextre, short for dexterous, and loosen the bolts on six batteries that will be replaced on the following two spacewalks.
NASA may add an extra chore to the second or third spacewalk. A cable is snagged at the end of the shuttle's inspection boom. Mission managers said it should be a quick and easy job to free it. The problem prevented the shuttle crew from properly checking Atlantis over the weekend for launch damage.
Mission Control will have the astronauts use the shuttle robot arm Tuesday to check the sections of the left wing and other areas that were missed in Saturday's survey.
NASA has mandated safety surveys for orbiting shuttles ever since the 2003 Columbia disaster. A hole in the wing, carved out by a slab of fuel-tank foam insulation at liftoff, led to Columbia's demise during re-entry.
The next spacewalk will be Wednesday and the last one on Friday.
On Tuesday, the astronauts will accomplish their other major objective, attaching a new Russian compartment to the space station.
Explore further: Space sex geckos at risk as Russia loses control of satellite