A U.S.-Canadian spacewalking duo wrapped up a series of three outings over the span of three and a half weeks, aimed at upgrading the International Space Station’s power and communication systems.
During the 6.5-hour operation, NASA astronaut Anne McClain and her Canadian crewmate, David Saint-Jacques, established a redundant path for power lines to the station’s Canadian-built robotic arm. They installed cables to provide for wider wireless communication coverage outside the station and improved hard-wired networking.
The spacewalkers also did prep work for a maintenance job that will be finished remotely using the robotic arm. They removed an adapter plate to clear the way for reinstalling a nickel-hydrogen battery that was taken out during a previous upgrade. The reinstallation is required because the lithium-ion replacement battery turned out to be faulty. Eventually, a new lithium-ion battery will be sent up for installation.
A few glitches were encountered along the way: McClain occasionally had trouble hearing Mission Control and reported that a bit of moisture built on her helmet visor toward the end of the spacewalk. Fortunately, the moisture problem was nowhere near as serious as it had been for Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano during a spacewalk in 2013, when he nearly choked on water that was leaking from an internal suit-cooling system.
McClain helped replace batteries during her first-ever spacewalk in March 22, and reported afterward that she was more comfortable wearing a medium-size spacesuit rather than a large. To accommodate that suit-size preference, NASA shifted the lineup for the second spacewalk in the series on March 29 to pair NASA astronaut Christina Koch with NASA’s Nick Hague rather than McClain. The lineup switch meant plans to mark history’s first all-female spacewalk had to be deferred.
This year’s first all-male spacewalk is planned next month, with Russia’s Oleg Kononenko and Alexei Ovchinin suiting up.