Two Russian cosmonauts ventured outside the International Space Station (ISS) for almost six hours today (Aug. 22) and successfully installed a new telescope mount on the orbiting lab’s Zveda module, despite encountering a glitch in the equipment. The spacewalkers returned safely to the ISS after completing their mission.
Making their second spacewalk in less than a week, Fyodor Yurchikhin and Aleksandr Misurkin discovered that the base plate of the camera platform was improperly aligned. At first, Russia’s Mission Control told the cosmonauts to abort the installation of the telescope mount. Later, however, mission controllers determined that the misalignment problem, which might prevent the future telescope from pointing in the right direction, could be fixed after the mount was installed. The spacewalkers were then given the go-ahead to replace a laser communications experiment with the new platform, which will hold a small optical camera system.
According to the spacewalkers, it wasn’t easy working in that location. “Tight quarters up here as far as anything to grab onto,” one of the cosmonauts observed. “You got that right,” the other replied.
Two cameras that are scheduled to be delivered to the space station by a Progress cargo craft in November will be mounted on the new platform during a spacewalk in December, NASA officials said.
Yurchikhin and Misurkin also installed new equipment on the module to aid future spacewalks and tightened some antenna covers because of concerns about a cover that came loose and floated off into space earlier this week. Using a test kit, Misurkin collected a sample from under a piece of thermal insulation on the Poisk Mini-Research Module. In addition, he snapped photos of a materials exposure experiment and associated cabling along the Poisk.
NASA has suspended all US spacewalks pending the outcome of an investigation into a near-drowning incident last month when Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano’s helmet filled with water during a spacewalk. The defective spacesuit will be returned to
Earth aboard a commercial SpaceX capsule early next year, the space agency said. Engineers believe the water originated from the suit’s cooling system. The spacesuits used by the Russians, on the other hand, are differently designed.
At the end of their spacewalk, the cosmonauts unfurled a Russian flag in honor of Russia’s Flag Day.
“Today is a holiday, Russian Flag Day. We congratulate all Russians. We must love and respect our flag and then others will respect us,” Yurchikhin said.
The Russian cosmonauts’ spacewalk was the 173rd from the space station. The rest of the ISS crew, who watched the event from inside, is made up of two Americans, one Italian, and another Russian.