Caribou astronaut to embark on first spacewalk this Friday

4 years ago

CARIBOU, Maine — Maine astronaut Jessica Meir will embark on her first spacewalk, a lifelong goal documented in her 1995 Caribou High School yearbook, “no earlier than Friday,” according to NASA.

In addition to achieving a personal goal, Meir, along with astronaut Christina Koch, will make history as Friday will mark NASA’s first all-female spacewalk.

Meir and Koch will prepare to leave the station and enter orbit, and “will set their suits to battery power on Friday at 7:50 a.m. when the spacewalk officially starts,” according to NASA.

NASA TV will begin live coverage at 6:30 a.m..

In this photo made available by NASA astronaut Jessica Meir on Sept. 29, 2019, Christina H. Koch, left, and Meir greet each other after Meir’s arrival on the International Space Station. On Friday, Sept. 4, 2019, NASA announced that the International Space Station’s two women will pair up for a spacewalk on Oct. 21 to plug in new batteries. (NASA via AP)

“Spacewalks are one of the most challenging things that we do,” Meir said in 2016 while visiting her hometown High School in Caribou. “You weigh over 400 pounds when you have the space suit on. It’s pressurized, so every movement feels like you’re squeezing an exercise ball. It takes a lot of training, and we are able to mimic microgravity through a system of weights and floats that a team of divers control.”

Her first spacewalk was initially planned for Wednesday, Oct. 16, to replace a faulty power unit. But station managers decided to postpone this spacewalk,saying that the failed unit “has no impact on the crew’s safety or ongoing laboratory experiments.”

The spacewalk objective is to replace a failed power controller, or battery charge-discharge unit. Upon exiting the Quest airlock and crossing the threshold into space, the two will “venture to the far side of the station on the Port 6 truss structure” to replace the BCDU, which has been in operation since December 2000. NASA estimates that the job will take roughly five and a half hours to complete. 

The failed power controller will then return to earth for inspection via the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship, and station managers will schedule three battery replacement spacewalks in the future.

NASA wrote that five additional spacewalks are also planned to repair a “cosmic particle detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer” in November and December.