Thomas and the blue marble

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Credit: ESA/NASA

A snap of ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet during the second spacewalk to upgrade the International Space Station’s power system, taken by NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough.

The duo performed the second extra vehicular activity to bolt in place and unfurl an IROSA, or ISS Roll-Out Solar Array, on Sunday 20 June.

The series of spacewalks last week was not without some challenges. During the first spacewalk on 16 June, Shane experienced a small technical problem in his spacesuit that required him to return to the airlock and restart his Display and Control Module. This module provides astronauts with continuous information on pressure, temperature and other vital data during a spacewalk.

Though the restart was successful and Shane was in no danger, it delayed the duo’s work, preventing them from completing installation of the first new solar array as planned.

The duo succeeded in taking the IROSA panel out of its storage area outside the Space Station and passed from spacewalker to spacewalker to the worksite. There the rolled arrays were secured. The spacewalk lasted 7 hours and 15 minutes.

During the second spacewalk, the duo unfolded, bolted and connected the wires. Then they hung out while the panels were unfurled, a sequence that lasted about 10 minutes.

Shane and Thomas then got ahead of the next spacewalk by preparing the next IROSA for installation before cleaning up the worksite and heading back to the airlock. This spacewalk lasted 6 hours and 28 minutes, with only a minor technical snag. Shane’s helmet lights and camera partially detached from his helmet but Thomas used some wire to reattach them as a temporary fix.

Mission planners are working on a third spacewalk on Friday June 25 to install the second pair of new solar arrays. This will go on the P6 truss’ 4B power channel, opposite the first new solar array.

Thomas now has spent 26 hours and 15 minutes on spacewalks over his two missions on the International Space Station, Proxima and Alpha.

“It was probably the most impressive experience I’ve ever had but it was not easy,” says Thomas.


Astronauts install new rollout solar panels on International Space Station


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Image: Thomas and the blue marble (2021, June 24)
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