Space Station Sunday: Spacewalkin' On Sunshine

Good evening, space fans!  What an exciting week it's been, off the Earth...

ISS Commander Butch Wilmore and Flight Engineer Terry Virts take a walk outside...
(Image courtesy

Wednesday saw the launch of the Progress 58 spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazahkstan. According to NASA, the latest Progress is ferrying "three tons of food, fuel and supplies to the station including 1,940 pounds of propellant, 110 pounds of oxygen, 926 pounds of water and 3,333 pounds of spare parts and experiment hardware." It arrived just before noon on Wednesday and docked with no trouble.

The dynamics of Progress.
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Then yesterday, it was time for some serious space business.

"How about a kiss for good luck, Sam?  Oh wait, forget it."
ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti helps Commander Wilmore and astronaut Virts don their spacesuits.
(Image courtesy

As reported by NASA, ISS Commander Butch Wilmore and Flight Engineer Terry Virts took a spin around the spacecraft on Saturday morning, bright and early at 7:45 AM, EST.  They endured a major spacewalk to rig up power and data cables from the Harmony Module and Pressurized Mating Adapter-2.  The astronauts successfully routed 340 of 360 feet of cable as part of a station-wide reconfiguration to enable new docking mechanisms so that commercial spacecraft may deliver more astronauts and supplies to the ISS later this decade.  

The new docking adapters, made by Boeing, will provide "parking space" for the SpaceX Dragon crew capsule as well as Boeing's new Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft.  The docking adapters will be delivered to the ISS later this year via a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule.

Mission Control kept it cool while the "cable guys" did their thing.  Good job to all involved!
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Wilmore and Virts concluded their spacewalk at 2:26 PM as the Quest airlock was re-pressurized. All scheduled tasks as well as one "get ahead" task were diligently handled by the astronauts. The total time the brave spacefarers were suspended in the aether was 6 hours and 41 minutes. This makes a total of 13 hours and 15 minutes of spacewalking time accrued during Commander Wilmore's career, and a successful first trip outside for Virts. An animation of their mission shows the extent of the work.

Space parking space: considerably more difficult than creating parking spaces on Earth.
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And if that's not enough work for one week, they're headed out again on Wednesday! Starting at 7:10 AM EST, the astronauts will route two more cables as well as lubricate the Canadarm-2, the station's method for snagging upward-bound spacecrafts and pulling them in for a big ISS hug.

Currently, astronauts have spent 1,159 hours and 8 minutes building and maintaining the ISS over the course of 185 spacewalks. That splendid space station has taken some serious assembly effort, and it's not showing any signs of stopping. Our space outpost is still safe, sound, and spectacular.

It may look dark and dangerous, but the astronauts saw at least three sunrises during their spacewalk.
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In other news, the Russian contingent of the ISS were hard at work on several interesting science projects this week, including the Aniso Tubule and Kaskad (Cascade) experiments.  The Aniso Tubule experiment is particularly fascinating, as it deals with how microtubules (a part of a plant's molecular skeleton) intuitively know how to grow thick enough to support against gravity.  Since the tubules align with local gravity field, and have been proven to grow shorter, thicker stalks in hypergravity (a.k.a. gravity stronger than that of Earth), it will be of scientific interest to see how the plants' microscopic structures will compare when grown in microgravity.

And finally, what's a stroll through space without a selfie? Commander Wilmore snapped this action shot of himself during yesterday's spacewalk. Astronaut Virts (inverted) is visible in his visor. Best of luck for the trip outside on Wednesday, guys!  We'll be celebrating the success next week right here, so watch this space!

It's good to be Commander.
(Image courtesy NASA/@Astro_Butch.)

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