Russian astronauts go on spacewalk to clean windows and upgrade station

Space News

Astronauts filmed five-and-a-half-hour walk on hand-held cameras and kept in touch constantly with each other and Russian mission control near Moscow.

Two Russian cosmonauts added new equipment outside the International Space Station on Monday and took pictures to study its exterior during a five-and-a-half-hour spacewalk.

Outside the International Space Station, Expedition 44 Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Mikhail Kornienko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) conducted a spacewalk Aug. 10 to replace and upgrade experiment and communications equipment on the Russian segment of the complex, clean windows on the Zvezda Service Module and measure thruster plume contamination on the hull of the station.

The outing was the 188th in support of the space station and the 10th of Gennady Padalka’s career, a veteran cosmonaut and grandfather who is serving as commander of the space station.

In June, Padalka, 57, set the world record for the most time spent in space: a total of 803 days.

His spacewalking partner, Mikhail Kornienko, 55, undertook his second walkabout in space.

Hours into the rigorous spacewalk, Padalka and Kornienko playfully taunted each other over whose hands were coldest and who had the most spirit, live footage broadcast on the websites of the Russian and US space agencies showed.

The spacewalk was over at 1951 GMT, an hour ahead of schedule. It lasted five hours and 31 minutes, NASA said.

Padalka and Kornienko installed gap spanners on the hull of the station to help “facilitate the movement of crew members on future spacewalks”, NASA said.

They also cleaned windows, installed fasteners on communications antennas, replaced an ageing antenna used for rendezvous and docking visiting vehicles at Russian docking ports, and took pictures of locations and hardware on Zvezda and nearby modules.

Floating against the bright blue oceans and white clouds of Earth, the astronauts filmed the outing with small hand-held cameras, constantly communicating with each other and Russian mission control outside Moscow.

Once they get out of their spacesuits, they will be able to sample their first bites of space-grown red romaine lettuce that their colleagues have saved for them.

Two US and one Japanese astronaut tasted the lettuce earlier on Monday.

NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren described the leafy greens as “awesome”.

Scott Kelly, who is spending one year aboard the space station with Kornienko, said the leaf tasted a bit like arugula.

The ability to cultivate food during a trip to Mars in the coming decades will be key to surviving the trip, which could last months or years.

“This payload, and having the ability for us to grow our own food, is a big step in that direction,” Kelly said.

The next spacewalk around the Russian section is set for January or February 2016, a space industry official, Alexander Kaleri, told the news agency Tass on Monday.