By Kerry SHERIDAN
Miami (AFP) March 24, 2017
A French and an American astronaut floated outside the International Space Station Friday for a spacewalk to upgrade the orbiting outpost for the arrival of future space crews.
The spacewalk by France's Thomas Pesquet, 39, and American Shane Kimbrough, 49, officially began at 7:24 am (1124 GMT) when the duo switched their spacesuits to internal battery power.
Pesquet and Kimbrough worked separately as they prepared to install new docking ports for the next generation of commercial spacecraft and do some minor space station repairs and maintenance.
The new crew spaceships, being designed by SpaceX and Boeing, should begin flying astronauts to the station in the coming years, as early as 2018.
Currently, the only way the world's astronauts can reach orbit is by buying a ride aboard Russia's Soyuz capsules, at $81 million per seat.
- 'Gee-whiz moment' -
Friday's spacewalk is the second of Pesquet's career, and the fifth for Kimbrough.
"Going outside is always a gee-whiz moment for me," Kimbrough said in an interview on NASA television this week, adding that it was also "really satisfying" to see Pesquet perform so well on his first spacewalk back in January.
On Thursday, Pesquet wrote on Twitter: "Feeling prepared for my second spacewalk tomorrow!"
Pesquet is the fourth Frenchman to ever walk in space, and the 11th European.
The goal for Friday's 6.5 hour spacewalk was to prepare for the installation of the second of two parking spots for space taxis, known as the International Docking Adapter.
Pesquet spent the first half of his spacewalk inspecting a radiator valve suspected of a small ammonia leak, but was unable to find evidence of any problems.
Meanwhile, Kimbrough disconnected cables and electrical connections on the pressurized mating adapter (PMA-3) to prepare for its move Thursday, March 30, during another spacewalk.
In its new location, it will become the home for the second of two International Docking Adapters, to be delivered on a future flight of a SpaceX Dragon cargo ship.
Kimbrough also worked on installing new cameras and computer equipment outside the space station, while Pesquet lubricated the space station's robotic arm.
- More spacewalks -
The next outing on March 30 will include Kimbrough and American astronaut Peggy Whitson, making the eighth spacewalk of her career.
A third spacewalk on April 6 is to include Pesquet and Whitson, who will surpass the record for spacewalks by a female astronaut.
Later in April, the 57-year-old Whitson will also break the record for most number of days spent in space by an American astronaut.
The current US record of 534 days is held by astronaut Jeff Williams.
Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka holds the record for the most cumulative days ever in space, at 879 days over five career trips.
Miami (AFP) March 24, 2017
A French and an American astronaut are scheduled to float outside the International Space Station Friday for a spacewalk aimed at upgrading the orbiting outpost for the arrival of future space crews. The spacewalk by France's Thomas Pesquet, 39, and American Shane Kimbrough, 49, will be the latest in a series of outings to install new docking ports for the next generation of commercial space ... read more
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