Two NASA astronauts will be conducting an emergency spacewalk to do maintenance work on the International Space Station (ISS).
Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer will reportedly begin doing the repairs at 8 a.m. on Tuesday. NASA reports that they will be streaming the event starting 6:30 a.m. ET on its website.
Whitson, the current commander of the current ISS expedition, had been tasked to replace the data relay box which failed Saturday. Known as the multiplexer-demultiplexer (MDM), the box is a unit that controls solar arrays, radiators, cooling loops, and many others. Fischer, on the other hand, will install two wireless communications antennas on the Destiny Lab. The antenna installation was originally planned for the last spacewalk on May 12. The emergency spacewalk will last 2.5 hours, said NASA.
While the cause of MDM’s malfunction is unknown at this point, it hasn’t affected any of the International Space Station’s vital systems or components, according to NASA. Contrary to some reports, the astronauts who will be conducting the maintenance work won’t be exposed to any danger. The MDM was reportedly a redundant system, while the other relay box is functioning normally, providing constant telemetry routing to the ISS’s systems as per usual routine.
“The spacewalkers are gathering their tools and checking their spacesuits today with assistance from Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet,” NASA said in a blog update. “The trio are also reviewing the contingency spacewalk procedures.”
According to Space.com, ISS program managers conducted a meeting on Sunday to discuss the measures and troubleshooting efforts that need to be done. At the end, they decided to replace the malfunctioning box with a spare.
Whitson and Fischer have also previously worked together, and conducted the 200th spacewalk outside the ISS earlier this month. Tuesday’s spacewalk will be the 201st in terms of station assembly and maintenance.
Whitson, who has spent more days in space than any American, has assembled and tested the new MDM on Sunday. Tuesday’s spacewalk will be her 10th spacewalk and will catapult her to third place all-time in cumulative spacewalking time. Among her many accomplishments as an astronaut include being the first woman to every command the ISS. Even better, she is the first woman to command the station for the second time.
“I love being up here,” Whitson said in a statement. “Living and working aboard the space station is where I feel like I make the greatest contribution, so I am constantly trying to squeeze every drop out of my time here. Having three more months to squeeze is just what I would wish for.”
“I love being on the International Space Station, and the science work is my favorite. Biochemistry, genetics, you name it! I have been lucky enough to assist the #NASAvillage team with some great research during each of my three missions spanning across fifteen years,” she said in a recent Facebook post.
Jack Fischer took to Facebook yesterday to express his excitement over being tasked to conduct a spacewalk on the ISS.
“What’s more awesome than being on @Space_Station? Getting a call from mission control 4 another spacewalk! Dancing w/ the cosmos tomorrow!”
A similar procedure has been conducted back in April 2014 by Expedition 39 crew members Steve Swanson and Rick Mastracchio.
The International Space Station, which is being manned by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts, functions as a research laboratory where experiments on biology, material science, and physics take place. ISS also gives astronauts the equipment and tools required to do astronomical observations and Earth remote sensing.
The station, jointly owned and operated by 15 nations, hovers 400 km above Earth and orbits the planet every 90 minutes.
The ISS has been continually staffed for the past 17 years.
[Featured Image by ESA/Getty Images]