On February 2, a spacewalk by Russian cosmonauts on the ISS was supposed to be a regular six-and-a-half hour mission to replace an electronics box for a communications antenna. But not everything went as planned – which required extra time, and ultimately a new spacewalk record.
At around the seven hour mark, the expedition commander Alexander Misurkin and flight engineer Anton Shkaplerov, realised that the antenna on the box wasn’t extending, after being folded up for the upgrade.
The cosmonauts spent several minutes literally pushing the antenna while flight controllers repeatedly tried to rotate the antenna into the correct position.
Eventually they got the antenna moving, but, according to a report at Space.com, mission control confirmed that the antenna was out by about 180 degrees.
Despite its askew position, the antenna “is operating and in good shape,” NASA TV commentator Rob Navias said during a live webcast.
Russian Roscosmos will be investigating the issue to see if anything further needs to be done.
The crew ended up with a record to show for it – the spacewalk lasted 8 hours and 13 minutes, which surpassed the previous Russian record of 8 hours and 7 minutes, set in 2013.
Despite the brief antenna incident, the old electronics box probably got the worst deal of the lot.
While most debris is taken back onto the ISS to be transported back to Earth, this unlucky piece of history was ‘jettisoned’ or thrown away from the station. This means that the box will eventually burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.
Spacewalker Alexander Misurkin jettisoned, or tossed, an old electronics box removed from the station into space. It will eventually re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up. https://t.co/yuOTrZ4Jut pic.twitter.com/pWFkcKQeOa
— Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) February 2, 2018
The old box, which was around 27 kg (60 pounds) and the size of a small suitcase, contained electronics made in the 1990s when the ISS was first launched. It was incompatible with new satellite technology, and so the upgrade was sent aboard the ISS, and the spacewalk scheduled.
Removing the old electronics was somewhat difficult for the cosmonauts, as the device was not meant to be serviced or replaced in orbit, especially with the bulky space gloves spacewalkers wear, Navias said.
The crew are back on the ISS now, and the next spacewalk is planned for February 15.
While the two crewmen can be congratulated on their new record, their antenna struggles are still a good reminder that, as exciting as the ISS can be, things can still go wrong, and space is definitely a dangerous place.