NASA announces that British astronaut Tim Peake will go on his first spacewalk on Jan. 15. Together with NASA astronaut Tim Kopra, Peake will wear his spacesuit and leave the Quest Airlock to venture out of the International Space Station and do some vehicle repairs.
The main mission of the two astronauts is to replace an electrical box called Sequential Shunt Unit (SSU). This device regulates and maintains the voltage of the station’s solar panels by sending excess electrical power produced by the vehicle back to array.
The ISS has eight SSUs. On Nov. 13, 2015, one of these units failed, compromising one if its power channels.
Replacing the unit is fairly easy to do as it simply involves a box that can be removed by undoing a bolt. However, it is a totally different scenario when one performs this mission in a bulky spacesuit while being suspended on a structure that is 250 miles above the Earth with a speed of 17,500 mph.
Once the mission is fulfilled, the astronauts will set up cables of new docking ports for future U.S. commercial vehicles. They will also reinstall a valve that was taken out in 2015 due to the relocation of the ISS’s Leonardo module.
ISS station commander Scott Kelly will help the astronauts get in and out of their spacesuits.
“If the spacewalk is successful, this will restore the International Space Station to 100% of its operational capability,” Peake said.
The entire spacewalk will start at 7:55 a.m. EST and is expected to last for about 6.5 hours.
The mission is Kopra’s second Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) in three weeks. On Dec. 21, 2015, he and Kelly moved a stalled part of the station.
Peake and Kopra were both crew members on the Russian Space Agency Soyuz flight that arrived at the ISS on Dec. 15, 2015. With this, they are said to be close colleagues.
Dream Come True
For Peake, the decision made by NASA was a dream come true.
Peake was selected by the European Space Agency among the thousands of applicants who want to go to space. He is the first British astronaut to fly under ESA. He will stay in the ISS for six months to perform his mission dubbed as Principia.
During Kopra and Kelly’s December 2015 EVA, Peake’s role was to support them and monitor the mission. Now, it is his time to shine.
I am thrilled to be assigned a spacewalk in 10 days. Lots of work to do before Tim and I can open the hatch https://t.co/ff7IEBfc3k
— Tim Peake (@astro_timpeake) January 5, 2016
Human spaceflight is a venture that the UK government initially opposed. With this, British astronauts had to wear an American flag on their uniforms. Helen Sharman was actually the first Briton to fly to space, but it was under a privately-funded mission called Project Juno.
Peake, however, is the first British citizen to fly into space under the UK government’s ESA.
As for spacewalks, the first person with British blood to undertake such a mission is Michael Foale. He stepped outside of the Discovery space shuttle on Feb. 9, 2005. He flew with NASA and has dual citizenship as per his American-born mother.