The first spacewalk of 2022 is all set to begin today, where two Russian cosmonauts will venture outside the International Space Station (ISS). Expedition 66 Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos will embark on the seven-hour spacewalk, exiting from the space-facing side of the Russian segment on the space station. During the expedition, they will install handrails, rendezvous antennas, one television camera, and docking targets on Prichal, according to NASA. Russia’s Prichal module docked to the Nauka laboratory multipurpose module back in November of 2021. Both Shkaplerov and Dubrov are experienced spacewalkers. While this one is Shkaplerov’s third, it is Dubrov’s fourth one.
Here’s how you can watch the spacewalk live in action.
💥 Don't miss the first spacewalk of 2022!
— NASA (@NASA) January 14, 2022
In the past, spacewalks have been dominated by the US and Russia. Two Chinese cosmonauts completed the country’s second spacewalk in July last year. As per NASA, the first ever spacewalk happened on March 18, 1965 and it lasted only 10 minutes. It was performed by Russian astronaut Alexei Leonov. The first American spacewalk, on the other hand, was performed by astronaut Ed White on June 3 of the same year. In last year’s Chinese spacewalk, Liu Boming and Tanh Hongbo, who was on his first space mission, spent about seven hours outside their station to set up cameras and other equipment using a 50-foot-long robotic arm.
The record for most spacewalks is held by Russia. Astronaut Anatoly Solovyev has gone on a total of 16 spacewalks and spent more than 82 hours outside in space. The US record is held by NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría who went on 10 spacewalks, clocking more than 67 hours.
Make no mistake, a spacewalk is no cakewalk. An astronaut steps out of their space vehicle in what consists an extravehicular activity or EVA. A spacewalk, though exhilarating, is not done for any kind of pleasure, but aims to carry out some serious work. It lets astronauts carry out key tasks like conducting experiments, executing repairs and testing equipment. For example, the Chinese taikonauts last year actually put in place the components that are essential for the functioning of their future space station.
For this year, NASA has more spacewalks in the pipeline. They are lined up to outfit a European robotic arm on the Nauka laboratory, apart from activating its airlock in order to facilitate future spacewalks. Today’s spacewalk will be the 246th spacewalk for space station assembly, maintenance, and upgrades, as per NASA.