Tuesday March 26, 2019
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Spacewalking Astronauts Replace Blurry Camera on Robot Arm

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This still image provided by NASA shows astronaut Joe Acaba during a spacewalk at the International Space Station on Oct. 20, 2017.

Astronauts went spacewalking Friday to provide some necessary focus to the International Space Station’s robot arm.

The main job for commander Randy Bresnik and teacher-turned-astronaut Joe Acaba was to replace a blurry camera on the new robotic hand that was installed during a spacewalk two weeks ago. The two men were supposed to go spacewalking earlier this week, but NASA needed extra time to rustle up the repair plan.

Sharp focus is essential in order for the space station’s robot hand to capture an arriving supply ship. The next delivery is a few weeks away, prompting the quick camera swap-out.

Orbital ATK, one of NASA’s commercial shippers, plans to launch a cargo ship from Virginia on November 11.

Acaba was barely outside an hour when he had to replace one of his safety tethers, which keep him secured to the orbiting outpost and prevent him from floating away.

Mission Control noticed his red tether seemed frayed and worn and ordered Acaba to “remain put” with his good waist tether locked to the structure as Bresnik went to get him a spare.

Spacewalking astronauts always have more than one of these crucial lifelines in case one breaks. They also wear a jetpack in case all tethers fail and they need to fly back to the space station.

This was the third spacewalk in two weeks for the space station’s U.S. residents. Bresnik performed the first two with Mark Vande Hei.

As they ventured out, Bresnik noted they were flying over Puerto Rico.

“Get out of here,” replied Acaba, the first astronaut of Puerto Rican heritage.

Acaba’s parents were born there, and he still has family on the hurricane-ravaged island.

“There’s a whole line of people looking up and smiling today as you get ready to head out the door,” Bresnik said.

Friday’s spacewalk should be the last one for the year. Early next year, astronauts will replace the hand on the opposite side of the 58-foot robot arm, Canada’s main contribution to the space station. The original latching mechanisms are showing wear and tear since the arm’s launch in 2001.

The 250-mile-high complex is currently home to three Americans, two Russians and one Italian.(VOA)

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NASA Cancels First All-Female Spacewalk Due to Lack of Small Spacesuit

"An all-woman spacewalk WILL eventually happen"

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NASA, women, space suit
U.S. astronaut Anne McClain waves before the launch of Soyuz MS-11 space ship at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Dec. 3, 2018. VOA

What should have been a giant leap for womankind has turned into a stumble on the path to equality after U.S. space agency NASA canceled the first all-female spacewalk due to a lack of a spacesuit in the right size.

Anne McClain and Christina Koch had been due to step into history books in a spacewalk Friday, during the final week of Women’s History Month.

But McClain will now give up her place on the mission to her male colleague Nick Hague, NASA announced late Monday.

“Mission managers decided to adjust the assignments, due in part to spacesuit availability on the station,” NASA said in a statement.

NASA, spacesuit, women
FILE – U.S. astronaut Christina Koch attends her final exam at the Gagarin Cosmonauts’ Training Center in Star City outside Moscow, Russia, Feb. 20, 2019. VOA

“McClain learned during her first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso — essentially the shirt of the spacesuit — fits her best. Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it.”

Nearly 60 years after the first human blasted off into space, less than 11 percent of the 500 plus people who have traveled to space have been women, and spacewalk teams have either been all-male or male-female.

McClain and Koch were both part of the 2013 NASA class that was 50 percent women.

NASA said the decision to change the plan was made in consultation with McClain after a spacewalk last week.

“Anne trained in M and L and thought she could use a large but decided after Friday’s spacewalk a medium fits better,” wrote spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz on Twitter.

nasa, women, space walk
The NASA announcement was met with disappointment and anger by many following the much-anticipated mission on social media, with some arguing an all-female spacewalk was overdue. Pixabay

“In this case, it’s easier (and faster!) to change spacewalkers than reconfigure the spacesuit.”

The NASA announcement was met with disappointment and anger by many following the much-anticipated mission on social media, with some arguing an all-female spacewalk was overdue.

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Others said they were sad that a milestone moment on women’s space exploration had been deferred, but safety came first.

“I’m super disappointed about the all-woman spacewalk not happening as scheduled this Friday but I’m also super supportive of astronauts having the authority to say ‘I would be safer using a different piece of equipment’,” wrote Emily Lakdawalla, a senior editor at the U.S. nonprofit The Planetary Society.

“An all-woman spacewalk WILL eventually happen.” (VOA)