Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Veteran Cosmonauts Complete Spacewalk to Deploy and Retrieve Experiements on ISS

Two veteran Russian cosmonauts have successfully completed a spacewalk lasting 4 hours and 45 minutes to retrieve and deploy a number of scientific experiments on the exterior of the International Space Station.

Cosmonauts Yuri Malenchenko and Sergey Volkov opened the hatch of the Pirs Docking Compartment airlock on the Russian Segment of the station at 12:55 p.m. GMT -  marking the beginning of today's Extra-Vehicular Activity(EVA).

The pair quickly got to work with Volkov jettisoning a used flash drive and towels overboard and retrograde(opposite the space station's direction of travel) which eliminated any possibility of a future collision with the complex or with visiting vehicles. The flash drive and towels are expected to burn up in the Earth's atmosphere within a few weeks.

Spacewalkers Malenchenko and Volkov
credit: NASA
With that task complete, Malenchenko was given a "GO" to egress from the airlock. His first task of the day was to translate to the Zvezda Service Module's Number 8 window to sample thruster residue left behind from rockets from visiting vehicles as well rockets on Zvezda itself.

The pair teamed up to remove a used experiment panel named "EXPOSE-R" which as the name suggests, exposes a number of chemical and biological samples to the vacuum of space while recording data during exposure. This was returned inside Pirs by Malenchenko who egressed once more with two more exposure payloads - "CKK" and "Vinoslivost," before heading to the station's Poisk module for installation.

While at Poisk, the spacewalking duo removed an old CKK exposure experiment for return to Earth and replaced it with a new one. The Vinoslivost experiment was then installed a short time later. This experiment exposes different types of metal to the space environment which will aid in the design and manufacturing of future spacecraft.

With Vinoslivost installed, Malenchenko and Volkov made their way to the Zarya module - the first component of the International Space Station, launched in November of 1998, to install gap spanners to assist future spacewalkers working on the station's exterior.

Finally, the last task of the day required the pair to install the Restavratsiya experiment near Pirs. This experiment involves exposing a number of materials commonly used on the exterior of Russian spacecraft to vacuum. While in a daytime pass, Malenchenko applied a thermal film to each surface whilst Volkov photographed.

Running 45 minutes ahead of their timeline and with all their tasks complete, Malenchenko and Volkov returned back into the Pirs airlock before closing the hatch at 5:40 p.m. - marking the end of today's excursion.

Today's spacewalk was the 193rd spacewalk in support of space station assembly and maintenance, the sixth in the career of Yuri Malenchenko, who conducted his first spacewalk almost 22 years ago outside the Russian space station Mir in 1994, and the fourth in Sergey Volkov's career.

Volkov will return to Earth in four weeks time in the early morning of March 2nd alongside ISS One Year crew members Mikhail Kornienko and Scott Kelly. Malenchenko will remain aboard the orbiting laboratory with NASA astronaut Tim Kopra and ESA astronaut Tim Peake.

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