Astronauts take a spacewalk to change the station’s batteries

Astronauts made their second spacewalk in less than a week on Wednesday to replace old batteries outside the International Space Station. Commander Chris Cassidy and Bob Behnken quickly took on the large, boxy batteries. For every two obsolete batteries that come out, a new and improved one goes in to power the station on the night side of Earth.

Within a few hours, the astronauts had installed a new battery, the third in this latest series of spacewalks. NASA plans to send the pair out twice more in July to complete the battery changes that started in 2017. The new lithium-ion batteries would last the rest of the life of the space station, officials said. With their main task completed, Cassidy and Behnken jumped forward to loosen the bolts on the remaining obsolete batteries. Some bolts required extra muscle strength.

“Boy, it was a good fight,” Cassidy called to the radio. “These batteries, they love their home.” Before floating out, Cassidy attached a spare mirror to his sleeve to replace one that came off and drifted away during Friday’s spacewalk. Astronauts use the wrist mirrors to see the displays on their chest control panel. NASA wants the battery ready before Behnken returns to Earth aboard a SpaceX capsule in August. He is one of two test pilots launched on SpaceX’s first astronaut flight in May.

Cassidy and Behnken now have eight spacewalks each on their resumes. A space tourist may get the chance to join the prestigious spacewalks – at the right price.

Virginia-based Space Adventures Inc. is looking for a paying customer to not only fly to the space station, but also take a spacewalk with an experienced Russian cosmonaut. Before launching from Kazakhstan, the space tourist would need additional training in Star City, Russia. Space Adventures will not disclose the cost of the two-week mission. The flight would take two tourists in 2023, one of whom would step outside. Russian missile company Energia is working with Space Adventures on the expedition. It would take enough specialized training before someone takes a spacewalk, Behnken told The Associated Press earlier this week.

NASA considers spacewalks to be one of the most risky parts of any mission, and astronauts spend hours underwater practicing – the simulation closest to spacewalks on Earth. “I think taking a spacewalk can be quite a challenge for a tourist,” said Behnken. Every tourist would like to have multiple practice sessions to ‘be prepared for space’.

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