Watch Astronauts Fix Up a Robotic Hand Out in Space

Saturday, 17 February 2018 - 10:30AM
Space
Robotics
NASA
Saturday, 17 February 2018 - 10:30AM
Watch Astronauts Fix Up a Robotic Hand Out in Space
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NASA
It's been said before, but it's always worth saying again: tasks that sound simple in everyday life become much trickier out in space.

That was the case for astronauts Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Norishige Kanai of Japan's JAXA space agency, who were given the task of fixing up the "Canadarm2" (no points for guessing it's a Canadian-built robotic arm) on the exterior of the International Space Station. Although when you consider that the robot arm is 58 feet long (17.7 meters), it starts to sound less simple.

Being on the outer, space-facing side of the ISS, the two had to prepare for the daunting 5 hour and 57 minute spacewalk that followed as they moved some of Canadarm2's robotic hands around. And since it's really cool to watch anything happen out in space, the ISS was documenting the spacewalk and beaming the coolest parts down to Earth, a planet which you can see way in the distance. Check it out below:







Note that they were technically moving a "Latching End Effector," a fancier way of saying "robotic hand," but it's essentially just a robotic hand. The LEEs are used to grapple with incoming spacecrafts like those launched from supply rockets, while the Canadarm2 pivots and rotates the hands around the station.

Some other routine maintenance was done since the two were far ahead of schedule, including repositioning some tools for "Dextre," one of the ISS' resident robotic handymen (not to be confused with Robonaut, another ISS robot which will be returning to Earth soon). Things tend to involve robots when you're working on the ISS, it seems.



All in all, considering it was Kanai's first spacewalk (and Vande Hei's fourth), it went remarkably smoothly, and six hours is a pretty normal amount of time to be floating around during a spacewalk. It went much more smoothly than a recent spacewalk by two other ISS residents, who accidentally broke a record at Russia's Roscosmos for length of a continuous spacewalk, because a glitch made some repairs take an excruciatingly long time. 

In contrast, fixing Canadarm only lasted three hours, making for an otherwise enjoyable romp through space. While safely connected to a cord, of course, to prevent any Gravity situations.


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