Always-eager astronauts Alexander Gerst and Reid Wiseman completed their first-ever spacewalks today, scrambling around the outside of the International Space Station. They completed their official objectives, but the beautiful part of today was their unadulterated happiness in their work.
In the days leading up to the spacewalk, Gerst and Wiseman checked out their suits, practiced their procedures, ran through safety simulations, and otherwise (unsuccessfully) tried to keep their enthusiasm in check. Their excitement leaked out in everything they did, from the utterly mundane size-check for special undergarments to unashamedly making puns about working under pressure ("4.3 psi, to be precise") .
During the 6 hour, 13 minute spacewalk, ESA's Gerst and NASA's Wiseman relocated a broken pump module, replaced a burnt-out light, and installed a backup power relay while NASA's Barry "Butch" Wilmore acted as spacewalk coordinator and Canadarm manipulator.
US EVA #27 work sites. Image credit: NASA
The extra-vehicular activity (EVA) started off with yet another episode of Alex and Reid's space adventures, with Gerst inviting Wiseman to take a walk on the wild side:
The broken pump module had been replaced with a spare during an Expedition 38 December spacewalk by Mike Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio, then temporarily stored on a truss.
Wiseman tidying up after moving the failed pump. Image credit: NASA TV
Now Gerst and Wiseman shuffled the faulty part to to External Stowage Platform-2 (ESP-2), just outside the Quest airlock. They also stored a pair of adjustable grapple bars in the same container.
While Wiseman tidied up, Gerst changed a lightbulb. The light on an External Television Camera Group (ETVCG) outside the Destiny laboratory module had burned out and needed replacing. Gerst hitched a ride on the Canadarm, which was being manipulated by Wilmore.
Gerst riding the Canadarm under the direction of Wilmore. Image credit: NASA TV
Finally, the duo installed a backup power electrical relay system for the Canadarm. A rail system, the Mobile Transporter, moves the Canadarm, supplies and gear around the station. This relay system (Mobile Transport Relay Assembly, MTRA) will keep the transporter powered between worksites, and provide backup keep-alive power if it gets stuck at an intermediate location.
Alex Gerst during his first spacewalk. Image credit: NASA/Wiseman
This was the first spacewalk for Expedition 41, and the first of three spacewalks scheduled for October. Wiseman will partner with Wilmore for a spacewalk on October 15th while Gerst acts as spaceflight coordinator and robotic controller. Wiseman and Wilmore will be replacing a voltage regulator connected to a solar array which failed on May 8th, reducing station power by an eighth for the intervening months. Russian cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Max Suraev will head out for their spacewalk on October 22nd, removing and jettisoning a completed experiment and a pair of antennas.
The thing I really appreciate about Gerst and Wiseman's time on the space station is how openly happy they are to be there, and how their sense of awe and wonder at being high above our planet never falters during their messages home. Sure, they probably have bad days, and yes, space suits are not exactly the most graceful way to move around, but they make it so clear that all that pales in comparison to their sheer joy at getting to have these experiences.
Update: They posted a few more photos the next day when they were a bit less busy. As always, they're adorably playful, with Gerst challenging us to spot Wiseman in a photo (to which Wiseman responded, "Too easy!")
And a few more moments of awe-struck wonder: