A Record-Breaking Spacewalk Ended With a Misplaced Antenna

Saturday, 03 February 2018 - 3:40PM
Space
Saturday, 03 February 2018 - 3:40PM
A Record-Breaking Spacewalk Ended With a Misplaced Antenna
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NASA
Some simple maintenance work at the International Space Station recently turned into a record-breaking endurance test for two cosmonauts, although not by choice.

Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Alexander Misurkin had to venture outside the ISS hull in order to upgrade an antenna, which might be a dull task on the Earth's surface, but becomes a very complex and terrifying experience when done during a spacewalk in Earth's orbit. Mundane as it may sound, it still meant that the two would would be expected to spend six and a half hours on a spacewalk. 

But there was a complication - while they were replacing an electronics box for the antenna (and throwing the original 60 pound box overboard, to harmlessly burn up in the atmosphere), the four foot antenna was folded up and became tangled and couldn't extend out properly. When you're floating out in space connected by a single harness, any problem can seem worse than usual, and it became an entire ordeal to get everything sorted out.

By the time the antenna was fixed and the box replaced, Shkaplerov and Misurkin returned to find they'd been on a spacewalk for eight hours and thirteen minutes, which was six minutes over the current Russian record for a single spacewalk. Also, the antenna was now facing the wrong side by a full 180 degrees.




Reportedly, one of the two astronauts shouted "Are you kidding us?" when they learned about the record. The time is still less than the current world (or off-world) record held by NASA, which is just under nine hours, but it's still a nice surprise after eight very long hours of work.

The antenna was first installed way back in 2000 by the Russian space agency Roscosmos, designed to communicate with a planned series of Russian satellites. But it ended up being well over a decade before those satellites were launched, making the 1990s-era electronics in the antenna way out of date. So this mission was already overdue, even if it ended up extending by nearly two hours.

Currently, the ISS crew is looking into whether the antenna can easily be rotated back into its original position, now that the electronics have been replaced.

If not, it looks like the crew will have another opportunity to break some records, as a whole new spacewalk will be necessary.
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