Russians carry out spacewalk


Cosmonauts Yuri Malenchenko and Sergey Volkov prepare for Wednesday's spacewalk. Credit: NASA/Scott Kelly
Cosmonauts Yuri Malenchenko and Sergey Volkov prepare for Wednesday’s spacewalk. Credit: NASA/Scott Kelly

Two veteran cosmonauts ventured outside the International Space Station Wednesday, swapped out materials science space exposure samples, installed handrails needed for future spacewalks and tested an applicator and thin-film coatings that could prove useful reconditioning aged or damaged hull panels.

Yuri Malenchenko and Sergey Volkov began Russian EVA-42 at 7:55 a.m. EST (GMT-5), opening the hatch of the Pirs airlock compartment to space. Volkov then accomplished the first item on the agenda, releasing of a flash drive containing messages and videos collected last year marking the 70th anniversary of Victory Day, the Russian holiday marking the end of World War 2.

The cosmonauts then collected residue samples from the Pirs hatch and a window on the Zvezda command module before removing an experiment package known as EXPOSE-R, which exposed various biological and biochemical materials to the space environment.

Once disconnected, the experiment was carried back to the Pirs compartment so its samples eventually can be returned to Earth for laboratory analysis.

Malenchenko and Volkov then moved up to the Poisk module where they swapped out another set of space exposure samples and reoriented a thruster plume impingement monitor. They also attached another space exposure experiment before moving to the Zarya module and installing two handrails.

The final task of the spacewalk was testing an applicator similar in appearance to a packing tape dispenser. Using a test panel, the cosmonauts applied specially coated tape intended to test thin films that could prove useful reconditioning exterior panels.

Not surprising to anyone who has used a packing tape dispenser on Earth, the applicator jammed at least twice, but the cosmonauts were able to free up the tape and continue the application of various coating “pages.”

“It glued on so nicely, I don’t even need to smooth it out,” one of the cosmonauts commented after rolling on a section of coated tape.

With the final task complete, Malenchenko and Volkov collected their tools and re-entered the Pirs compartment, shutting the hatch and ending the four-hour 45-minute spacewalk at 12:40 p.m.

This was the 193rd spacewalk devoted to station assembly and maintenance since construction began in 1998, the second so far this year, the sixth for Malenchenko and the fourth for Volkov. Total ISS EVA time now stands at 1,204 hours and 48 minutes, or 50.2 days.

Volkov plans to return to Earth on March 1 U.S. time, bringing Mikhail Kornienko and NASA astronaut Scott Kelly back to Earth after nearly one year in space. Malenchenko, who arrived at the station in December, will return to Earth with his two Soyuz TMA-19M crewmates, Timothy Kopra and British astronaut Timothy Peak, on June 5.