Take 2: Space Travel Astronauts Tackle Solar Panel Work

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – The astronauts embarked on their second spacewalk in less than a week on Sunday to install powerful new solar panels outside the International Space Station.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – The astronauts embarked on their second spacewalk in less than a week on Sunday to install powerful new solar panels outside the International Space Station.

NASA’s French Thomas Pesquet and Shane Kimbrough picked up where they left off on Wednesday, when the spacesuit and other issues prevented them from unrolling the first in a series of high-tech solar panels.

“Remember: you are butterflies with biceps today,” astronaut Megan McArthur said over the radio from inside.

After pushing and pulling, the astronauts managed to unfold and align the solar panel so that the two halves are now end to end, resembling a roll of paper towels. Their cry of “Woo-hoo!” Was applauded at Mission Control.

The two had to wait until they were back on the night side of Earth – and the station’s old solar panels were no longer absorbing sunlight and producing electricity – before making the final electrical hookups. Otherwise, they might be shocked.

While waiting for darkness, the camera and light assembly of Kimbrough’s helmet loosened, even though he had changed his suit to avoid the issues he faced last time around. Pesquet did his best to secure it with metal ties, as the minutes went by.

The final step – yet to come – was the deployment of the panel to its entire 63-foot (19-meter) length.

These new solar wings are designed to roll out like a red carpet, unlike the old ones at the station which roll out like an accordion. They will give the aging station a much needed electric boost, as the demand for experiences and space tourists increases.

NASA initially allocated two spacewalks for work – one for each solar panel being installed. But the managers added a third spacewalk, given all the previous issues. Pesquet and Kimbrough will leave on Friday to complete work on the second panel delivered by Space X earlier this month.

This first pair will complete the space station’s oldest solar wings, which deteriorate after 20 years of continuous operation.

SpaceX will deliver two more pairs over the next year.

Although smaller than the originals, the new solar panels can generate a lot more energy. The space station needs this revitalization if NASA is to hope the space station will operate for the remainder of this decade, with private guests paying millions of dollars to get on board.

A Russian film crew is due to be launched this fall to the outpost orbiting Kazakhstan, followed by a string of wealthy businessmen. SpaceX provides the trips from Cape Canaveral.

Kimbrough’s suit’s display control panel turned off on Wednesday and he had to return to the airlock to reset it. Then his cooling system recorded a momentary pressure surge. Engineers are always evaluating what went wrong.

“Space is tough,” Kimbrough tweeted.

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

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press


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