Astronauts perform spacewalk to swap station batteries

National

In this image taken from NASA video, commander Chris Cassidy, right, and NASA astronaut Bob Behnken perform their second spacewalk in under a week Wednesday, July 1, 2020, to replace old batteries outside the International Space Station. (NASA via AP)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Astronauts performed their second spacewalk in under a week Wednesday to replace old batteries outside the International Space Station.

Commander Chris Cassidy and Bob Behnken quickly tackled the big, boxy batteries. For every two outdated batteries coming out, a new and improved one goes in to supply power to the station on the night side of Earth.

Within a couple hours, the astronauts had installed another new battery, the third one in this latest series of spacewalks. NASA plans to send the pair out twice more in July to complete the battery swap-outs that began in 2017. The new lithium-ion batteries should last the rest of the space station’s life, according to officials.

With their main chore completed, Cassidy and Behnken jumped ahead to loosen the bolts on the remaining outdated batteries. Some of the bolts required extra muscle.

“Boy, it put up a good fight,” Cassidy radioed. “These batteries, they like their home.”

Before floating out, Cassidy attached a spare mirror to his sleeve to replace one that came off and floated away during Friday’s spacewalk. Astronauts use the wrist mirrors to see the displays on their chest control panel.

NASA wants the battery work completed before Behnken returns to Earth in August aboard a SpaceX capsule. He’s one of two test pilots who launched on SpaceX’s first astronaut flight in May.

Cassidy and Behnken now have eight spacewalks apiece on their resumes.

A space tourist might get a chance to join the prestigious spacewalking ranks — for the right price.

Virginia-based Space Adventures Inc. is seeking a paying customer to not only fly to the space station, but do a spacewalk with an experienced Russian cosmonaut. Before launching from Kazakhstan, the space tourist would need to undergo extra training in Star City, Russia.

Space Adventures is not divulging the cost of the two-week mission. The flight would take up two tourists in 2023, one of whom would step outside. The Russian rocket company Energia has teamed up with Space Adventures for the expedition.

Plenty of specialized training would be needed before someone ventures out on a spacewalk, Behnken told The Associated Press earlier this week.

NASA considers spacewalks one of the riskiest parts of any mission, and astronauts spend hours practicing underwater — the closest simulation to spacewalking on Earth.

“I think it could be really challenging for a tourist to go on a spacewalk,” Behnken said. Any tourist would want multiple practice sessions in order to be “prepared for the space environment.”

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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