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European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer’s first spacewalk was an eventful one, beginning and ending with helmet issues.
Maurer and NASA astronaut Raja Chari began the spacewalk at 8:32 a.m. ET.
At the beginning of the walk, Maurer experienced an issue involving the camera and light assembly on his helmet, which did not pose any threat to his safety, according to NASA. Chari assisted Maurer and they worked on a solution with mission control members on the ground, which involved some wiring. Once it was fixed, the duo began working on their spacewalk activities around 9:44 a.m. ET.
The spacewalk concluded at 3:26 p.m. ET, lasting six hours and 54 minutes. Once Maurer and Chari were back inside the air lock, water was identified in Maurer’s helmet.
The mission control team on the ground asked him to collect the water and determine how much was present. Maurer sad there was an 8- to 10-inch-diameter circle of water and dampness in the vent port. About 30% to 50% of the visor was coated in water.
The astronauts took photos to send in for analysis and Maurer said he was fine. No water was identified in Chari’s helmet or suit.
Ground control said there was “no danger” to Maurer and the astronaut was all smiles despite the issues. His first spacewalk essentially took him on a tour of the outside of the space station.
During the spacewalk, the astronauts worked on a number of tasks. Chari and Maurer installed hoses on a radiator beam valve module, which routes ammonia through the station’s heat-rejecting radiators. These ensure that space station systems remain at the proper temperature.
Additionally, Chari and Maurer replaced an external camera, installed a power and data cable on the Columbus module’s Bartolomeo science platform, and conducted some other upgrades.
Inside the station, NASA astronauts Kayla Barron and Tom Marshburn operated the Canadarm2 robotics arm to assist the spacewalkers.
It was 248th spacewalk in support of assembling, maintaining and upgrading the space station. This was Chari’s second spacewalk after conducting his first alongside Barron last Tuesday, and the first for Maurer. Maurer became the 12th ESA astronaut to conduct a spacewalk.
During the spacewalk, Chari was extravehicular crew member 1 wearing the suit with red stripes, and Maurer was identifiable as extravehicular crew member 2 in the suit with no stripes.
Maurer’s first space outing was a busy one as he traversed much of the space station’s exterior, according to the ESA.
“I will go out with my dear colleague Raja. He will do some repairs for the cooling system of the Station, and I will walk around or, I should say, crawl around another part of the Station and do different small activities,” Maurer said in a statement before the spacewalk began. “I really do have to do a complete tour of the Space Station. It is a motley mix and I’m totally looking forward to it.”
When Maurer installed the power and data cable for Bartolomeo, the first European commercial facility positioned outside of the space station, it was the final step in connecting the module so that it’s fully operational.
There are currently 10 crew members on the space station, after three Russian cosmonauts arrived at the orbiting laboratory on Friday.
The crew count will drop back down to seven on March 30 when NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei returns to Earth with Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov. They will undock from the space station in the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship and land in Kazakhstan about three and a half hours later.
Last week, NASA reaffirmed that it’s still working closely with Russian space agency Rocosmos on the space station, despite mounting geopolitical tensions.
Joint operations between NASA and Roscosmos at the Russian facilities at Baikonur, Kazakhstan, “continue to go well,” according to Joel Montalbano, manager of NASA’s International Space Station program. “I can tell you for sure Mark (Vande Hei) is coming home” on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, Montalbano said last week. “We are in communication with our Russian colleagues, there’s no fuzz on that.”
When Vande Hei lands, he will have spent 355 consecutive days in space, breaking the previous spaceflight record set by retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly.