Even if the mission could not be accomplished to the end, the main thing is there: Thomas Pesquet returned without incident Wednesday inside the International Space Station after its exit in space.
The French astronaut spent more than seven hours outside the ISS.
He and his teammate, US astronaut Shane Kimbrough, will make a second outing on Sunday, to continue the installation of new solar panels, intended to increase the energy production capacities of the Space Station. This extra-vehicular outing (“EVA”), the first since their arrival in the ISS at the end of April, was technically unprecedented. Thomas Pesquet now counts 19 hours and 47 minutes spent in spacewalk. It was for him the third of his career. It was the seventh for Shane Kimbrough, and the 239th in the history of the ISS, which orbits 400 kilometers above Earth.
“You did a fantastic job today,” Jenni Sidey, NASA official who was in constant contact with them from Earth, told them at the end of the operation.
"It was a complicated EVA."
The astronauts had started the internal battery of their suit at 2:11 p.m. PST, marking the official start of their expedition, which ended seven hours and fifteen minutes later, at 9:26 p.m.
Concerns over Kimbrough's suit
Halfway through, the mission had to be temporarily put on hold due to concerns about Shane Kimbrough's suit. NASA teams observed an interruption in the transmission of data to check the condition of his suit, as well as a sudden spike in the pressure of his cooling system. The astronaut had to return to the Station's airlock and perform a reset, before exiting. Meanwhile, Thomas Pesquet was waiting for him, hanging by his feet to a robotic arm.
The mission finally resumed, with control data stabilized.
Shane Kimbrough has at no time been "in danger", reassured NASA.
But a precious hour has been lost.
The two astronauts then moved the solar panel, folded on itself in a large roll of about 350 kg, to where it was to be installed.
They secured it and attempted to unfold it, but an alignment issue interfered with the mechanism, preventing it from unfolding.
They then returned to the interior of the Station.
NASA must now decide what to do next: on Sunday, will the astronauts finish installing the first panel, or will they tackle the second, as initially planned?
Answer in three days.
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