Two NASA astronauts set off on a spacewalk Thursday to repair a faulty antenna on the International Space Station.
This is in the face of what NASA described as a relatively escalating risk of orbital debris left over from a Russian missile test weeks ago.
The mission, which is expected to take 6 and a half hours (1210 GMT), began as astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron emerged from the airlock at the research laboratory, which orbits at an altitude of 402 kilometers above the Earth’s surface to begin their work.
“The sun will rise soon and you will be over South America in two minutes,” the mission control center told the astronauts as they emerged from the airlock.
The mission comes on the heels of a 48-hour delay due to an alarm from orbital debris that later turned out to be fearless, and this delay is believed to be the first of its kind in more than two decades in the space station’s history.
The mission is the fifth time that Marshburn, 61, a doctor, has walked into outer space, and the first time for Barron, 34, a US Navy submarine officer and nuclear engineer, on her first space flight.
The mission objective is to remove a radio antenna that is now more than 20 years old and replace it with a spare stored outside the space station.
The two astronauts are among a team of four that arrived at the space station on November 11 aboard the SpaceX Dragon capsule, which was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to join two Russian and NASA astronauts aboard the station.
Four days later, “NASA” said that Russia had conducted an anti-satellite missile test without warning, which generated a field of debris in low-Earth orbit and forced the seven astronauts aboard the International Station to take shelter in their spaceships anchored at the station to allow the opportunity to move away until the danger passed.
Dana Weigl, deputy program manager for the International Station at NASA, said that the cloud of debris from the explosion of a satellite dissipated after that.
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