Cape Canaveral, Florida. Astronauts ventured into space for the second time in less than a week on Sunday to install powerful new solar panels outside the International Space Station.
Frenchman Thomas Pesquet and Shane Kimbrough of NASA returned from where they left off Wednesday when a spacesuit and other problems prevented them from opening their first series of high-tech solar panels. Kimbrough wore a different outfit to avoid the trouble he got in the last time.
“Remember: today you are a two-headed butterfly,” astronaut Megan MacArthur told the radio insider.
The astronauts were able to close the first solar wing last week, but had to delay the electrical connections and raise the panel to its full length of 63 feet (19 meters). Sunday was high on my to-do list.
These new solar wings are designed to roll like a red carpet, unlike the wings of the old station that opened like an accordion. They will give the old station a much-needed electrical boost, as demand for space experiences and tourists grows.
NASA originally assigned two spacewalks for this mission, one for each installed solar panel. But the film makers added a third run in the space, given all the previous problems. Pesquet and Kimbrough will return on Friday to complete work on a second panel presented by Space X earlier this month.
This first pair will augment the space station’s old solar wings, which are deteriorating after 20 years of continuous operation.
SpaceX will introduce a couple more over the next year.
Although the new solar panels are smaller than the original panels, they can generate much more energy. This space station must be reactivated if NASA is to hope to continue operating the space station for the remainder of this decade, with special guests paying millions of dollars to board it.
A Russian television crew will depart for the tropical location this fall from Kazakhstan, followed by a string of wealthy businessmen. SpaceX offers flights from Cape Canaveral.
On Wednesday, the screen control panel on the Kimbrough suit closed and he had to return to the inner tube to reset it. Then his cooling system experienced a temporary increase in pressure. Engineers are still assessing what went wrong.
“Space is hard,” Kimbrough wrote on Twitter.
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