NASA kicks off attempt to set spacewalk record — and here’s what’s in store

NASA astronaut Jack Fischer works outside the International Space Station in May 2017NASA
  • he National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) astronauts completed the first in ten spacewalks of the agency’s ‘Spacewalk Bonanza’.
  • NASA plans to set a new record by conducting ten spacewalks over the next three months.
  • On October 21, NASA astronauts will perform to the first all-female spacewalk in human history.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( NASA) is on track to set a new record for spacewalks. The agency is even calling it the ‘Spacewalk Bonanza’.

The first of the ten spacewalks scheduled to take place outside the International Space Station ( ISS) over the next three months was completed without any issues yesterday evening.

NASA’s success will mark a pace that hasn’t been seen since the ISS, was first constructed back in 2011.

The first of ten spacewalks

Astronaut Christina Koch returning from the spacewalk on October 6NASA TV

Two NASA astronauts, Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan, initiated the first series of spacewalks that are dedicated to replacing the batteries on the far end of the ISS’ port side — or far left.

In the sevens hours they spent walking in space, Koch and Morgan were able to remove three existing nickel-hydrogen batteries and replace two with the newer lithium-ion batteries.

Koch and Morgan will venture back out onto the ISS on October 11.

Here’s everything that’s still to come from NASA’s ‘Spacewalk Bonanza’:


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​The first all-women spacewalk

​The first all-women spacewalk

Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will be the first two astronauts to conduct the first all-women spacewalk in human history (Source: NASA)

NASA might be setting a new record for the agency but it will also achieve a new milestone on October 21. The two women astronauts currently stationed at the ISS, Koch and Jessica Meir, are scheduled to take the world’s first ever all-women spacewalk during the first phase of the spacewalks.

The agency initially planned on conducting its first all-women spacewalk earlier this year in March but the plan was called off due to the lack of properly fitted spacesuits.

NASA has conducted over 200 spacewalks around the ISS but only 15 of them ever included a women. Even then, she was always accompanied by a man.

​Weight doesn’t matter — size does

​Weight doesn’t matter — size does

Two astronauts carrying a battery between them (Source: NASA)

The new batteries are actually heavier than the older ones. The nickel-hydrogen batteries weigh 165 kilograms while the lithium-ion replacements weigh 194 kilometers.

But it’s not their weight that makes a difference, since objects appear weightless in space, but their size.

Each of the batteries that the astronauts are replacing is around the same size as half a refrigerator. Their mass has to factored in to determine how they will move.

Upgrading the ISS’ power system

Upgrading the ISS’ power system

Spacewalker Nick Hague switching out batteries outside the ISS on 29 March 2019 (Source: NASA)

The first phase which just kicked off, consists of five spacewalks to replace upgrade the ISS’ power system. Astronauts will switch out nickel-hydrogen batteries for lithium-ion batteries.

Batteries are crucial to the functioning of the ISS since they store power that’s generated by the station’s solar arrays. So, when it’s not in the sunlight — like during Earth’s orbital night — the batteries provide power.

Batteries that will only die with the space station

Batteries that will only die with the space station

The International Space Station (ISS) (Source: NASA)

The overall upgradation of the ISS’ power system is not a new mission for NASA. It began back in January 2017 with similar battery replacements. The project is more than halfway done but there’s still a long way to go.

The older nickel-hydrogen batteries are over 10 years old. The new ones, on the other hand, are expected to last the ISS’ lifetime.

Looking for ‘dark matter’

Looking for ‘dark matter’

NASA's Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (Source:NASA)

The second phase will be a sequence of spacewalks to repair the station’s Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS). The instrument catches particles in space to look for evidence of ‘dark matter’ in the universe.

It has exceeded its three-year lifespan and some components are starting to show signs of wear-and-tear.

The dates for the second phase haven’t been announcement but NASA is tentatively aiming to initiate these spacewalks in November and they will continue on into December.

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