February 17, 2012
Station Cosmonauts Complete Spacewalk
Two Russian cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) completed a six-hour and 15-minute spacewalk Thursday afternoon to ready for the removal of a docking module due to be flown back into Earth´s atmosphere for incineration sometime next year.
Oleg Kononenko and Anton Shkaplerov worked outside the station during the 6-hour exercise, the first of three spacewalks scheduled for this year. They moved the Strela-1 crane from the Pirs docking compartment to begin preparing the Pirs for its replacement with a new laboratory and docking module next year.
Pirs will be removed from the station in July 2013 to make way for the new Russian multipurpose module Nauka which combines docking ports, experiment space, and extra bathroom and a sleeping cabin for one crewmember.
The spacewalk, televised by NASA TV, followed Kononenko and Shkaplerov as they also installed the Vinoslivost Materials Sample Experiment, which will investigate the influence of space on the mechanical properties of the materials. They also collected a test sample from underneath the insulation on the Zvezda service module to search for signs of living organisms.
While the spacewalk was a major success, they were not able to complete all the originally-planned tasks, including the installation of five debris shields on Zvezda. Relocating the Strela-1 crane took longer than planned, causing them to run short on time to complete all tasks. The debris shields task will be rescheduled on a future spacewalk.
This was the 162nd spacewalk in support of space station assembly and maintenance. It was Kononenko´s third spacewalk following two in July 2008 during Expedition 17. He has spent a total of 18 hours and 27 minutes spacewalking. This was Shkaplerov´s first spacewalk and the only one scheduled during Expedition 30.
Due to the location of the spacewalk activities, Commander Dan Burbank and Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin were confined to the Poisk module for the duration of the spacewalk. However, they had access to the Soyuz spacecraft in the event of an emergency. Meanwhile, Flight Engineers Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers, whose Soyuz craft is docked to the Rassvet module, were free to move about the US segment of the ISS.
The ISS, a jointly-owned complex of the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada, flies above the Earth at about 240 miles. It is used for medical, materials science, fluid physics and other research in a microgravity environment.
Image Caption: Poisk docking module at the Space Station prior to the separation of its propulsion compartment. Credit: NASA
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