Astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet conducted a spacewalk to install new solar arrays to power up the International Space Station. The whole task was caught in a stunning YouTube video uploaded online.
Iconic space exploration images would always feature astronauts floating in space. However, astronauts rarely do this for fun. Spacewalk, by definition, is a physical task astronauts need to complete in space but outside their aircraft. Astronauts must work in a zero-gravity situation and perform professional work in a highly dangerous and open environment.
In this instance, the astronauts resort to spacewalk after facing a bunch of technical delays. Specifically, they had to settle unfinished business from a previous spacewalk last Wednesday.
NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet were tasked upgrade six of the eight power channels on the International Space Station. The whole procedure lasted six hours.
Astronauts Install New Solar Panels
NASA tweeted highlights of the installation process. The agency captioned the post: "You and your good friend are working ~250 miles (~400 kilometers) above a beautiful blue marble."
✨ POV: You and your good friend are working ~250 miles (~400 kilometers) above a beautiful blue marble. pic.twitter.com/ctD3f0ab0O— NASA (@NASA) June 20, 2021
Unfortunately, the astronauts encountered several issues during the mission. CNN reported that three hours into the spacewalk, Kimbrough had to return to the space station's airlock and reboot systems after his spacesuit's display unit lost its data. There was also a momentary spike in the pressure reading on Kimbrough's suit, which fortunately stabilized shortly afterward.
During their spacewalk, per Space.com, astronauts had to move solar arrays to a mounting bracket, fold them back up, and bolt them in place in a safe configuration. The astronauts also installed electrical cables and two final bolts so the solar array could later unfurl and provide solar power for the space station.
Since the astronauts worked around electrical connectors, there was a risk of metal contact and electrical shock. Spacewalk officer Kieth Johnson said that the ground crew busily conducted a plasma forecast to determine electrical charge conditions on the space station during the walk. Also, metallic aspects of the spacesuits have been covered.
This marks the eighth career spacewalk for Kimbrough and the fourth career spacewalk for Pesquet.
International Space Station Spacewalk
The full video coverage of the event was posted on the NASA YouTube channel. The video spans a total of eight hours, including the preparation procedure and returns docking of the astronauts.
When watching the video, expect a full commentary and explanation of the whole procedure. Watch and learn more about spacewalk, space station living conditions, and what it means to work in space!
Note that the new arrays installed are designed to last 15 years. The old arrays removed were also designed for 15 years but supplied power for over 20 years in space. The old arrays are still functional but showed signs of wear and tear after long-term exposure in space. However, these new arrays are expected to have a longer rate of degradation, giving astronauts a break from another lengthy spacewalk.