Mission managers have given the go for two astronauts to exit the International Space Station on Wednesday for a six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk. Meanwhile, three Expedition 66 crew members are getting ready for their return to Earth at the end of the month.
Flight Engineers Raja Chari of NASA and Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) began Tuesday morning with standard medical checkups the day before their spacewalk. The duo had an ear exam and measured heart and breathing rate, blood pressure, and temperature. Afterward, Chari and Maurer staged their U.S. spacesuits and readied their spacewalking tools inside the U.S. Quest airlock.
During the afternoon, the spacewalking pair were joined by NASA astronauts Kayla Barron and Tom Marshburn for a procedures review with engineers on the ground. Barron and Marshburn will also be on robotics duty commanding the Canadarm2 robotics arm to assist the spacewalkers during Wednesday’s excursion. Chari and Maurer set their spacesuits to battery power at 8:50 a.m. EDT signifying the start of their spacewalk. Their main objective is to install thermal system and electronics components on the outside of the space station. Live NASA TV coverage begins at 7:30 a.m. on NASA Television, the NASA app and the agency’s website.
The next major event at the orbital lab will be on March 30 when NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei returns to Earth with Roscosmos cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov. The trio will undock from the Rassvet module inside the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan about three-and-a-half hours later. The two cosmonauts practiced Soyuz descent procedures and loaded cargo and personal items inside the vehicle. Vande Hei, who will land with a NASA-record breaking 355 continuous days in space, focused mainly on science today studying space archeology and glass optics.
The station’s three newest crew members are in their first full week on the orbiting lab and continue their station familiarization activities. Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev, on his third space station mission, and first time space-flyers Sergey Korsakov and Denis Matveev will spend the next few days getting used to life on orbit.