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7 Things to Know About Spacewalks

7 Things to Know About Spacewalks

On Wednesday, Oct. 28 and Friday, Nov. 6, Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren will perform spacewalks in support of space station assembly and maintenance. You can watch both of these events live on NASA Television. But, before you do, here are 7 things to know:

1. What’s the Point of a Spacewalk?

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Spacewalks are important events where crew members repair, maintain and upgrade parts of the International Space Station. Spacewalks can also be referred to as an EVA – Extravehicular Activity. On Wednesday, Oct. 28, Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren will complete a spacewalk. During this time they will service the Canadarm2 robotic arm, route cables for a future docking port, and place a thermal cover over a dark matter detection experiment, which is a state-of-the-art particles physics detector that has been attached to the station since 2011.

2. What Do They Wear?

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The Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) spacewalking suit weighs around 350 pounds. It’s weightless in space, but mass is still very real. The EMU provides a crew member with life support and an enclosure that enables them to work outside the space station. The suit provides atmospheric containment, thermal insulation, cooling, solar radiation protection and micrometeoroid/orbital debris protection.

3. How Long Are Spacewalks?

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Spacewalks typically last around 6 ½ hours, but can be extended to 7 or 8 hours, if necessary. The timeline is designed to accommodate as many tasks as possible, as spacewalks require an enormous amount of work to prepare.

4. What About Eating and Drinking?

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Before a spacewalk astronauts eat light, usually something like a protein bar. The spacesuits also have a drink bag inside, and there is a bite valve that allows ready access to water.

5. What About Communication?

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Spacewalkers wear a ‘comm’ cap that allows them to constantly communicate with astronauts inside the space station that are helping with the walk, and with mission control. Astronauts also wear a checklist on their left wrist called a “cuff checklist”. This list contains emergency procedures.

6. What About Light?

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Something that most people don’t realize about spacewalks is that the crew will experience a sunrise/sunset every 45 minutes. Luckily, their spacesuits are equipped with lights that allow them to see in times of darkness.

7. How Do They Stay Safe?

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When on a spacewalk, astronauts use safety tethers to stay close to their spacecraft. One end of the tether is hooked to the spacewalker, while the other end is connected to the vehicle. Another way astronauts stay safe is by wearing a SAFER, which is a Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue. This device is worn like a backpack and uses small jet thrusters to let an astronaut move around in space.

You can watch both of the upcoming spacewalks live on: NASA Television or the NASA App, or follow along on @Space_Station Twitter.

Wednesday, Oct. 28: Coverage begins at 6:30 a.m. EDT. Spacewalk begins at 8:10 a.m.

Friday, Nov. 6: Coverage begins at 5:45 a.m. EDT. Spacewalk begins at 7:15 a.m.

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