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Shuttle crew completes its final spacewalk with ease

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. —A pair of astronauts zipped through the third and final spacewalk of their mission Monday, helping to install a 1,200-pound oxygen tank at the International Space Station and accomplishing everything else on their list.

"You mean there's nothing left for us to do?" Randolph Bresnik asked as the spacewalk wrapped up. He was assured no work remained.

Bresnik, still celebrating the weekend birth of his daughter, Abigail Mae, was excited for the excursion.

"Hey, Wyatt, I look just like Spider-Man," he called out to his 3 1/2-year-old son as he clambered along the station's latticelike framework.

Bresnik and Robert Satcher Jr., the first orthopedic surgeon in space, tackled their biggest spacewalking chore early, removing the tank from a newly delivered cargo platform on the station and then letting a robot arm take it from there.

The tank was moved and attached to the NASA air lock, a chamber leading out to the vacuum of space. It was filled with high-pressure oxygen for future spacewalks. The spacewalkers hooked up the gas line for the tank, then opened and closed a valve for a leak check.

At the end of the 5 1/2-hour spacewalk, Bresnik noted that he got to see his infant daughter for the first time Sunday.

"It was the most wonderful thing I've seen since I left Earth," he said.

The two Atlantis astronauts managed to get ahead of schedule, even though they floated out the hatch an hour late. They were delayed reattaching a valve on the drink bag in Satcher's suit to make sure big blobs of water didn't float up into his eyes during the spacewalk.

NASA officials said they couldn't be more satisfied with the spacewalks. The space agency ended the year with 22, just one shy of the record.

Atlantis will undock Wednesday. The shuttle and its crew will aim for a landing at Kennedy Space Center on Friday.

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