Space Walking is one of the most outstanding experiences of all the human activities in space. “Wow it’s really high!” That’s how astronaut Garrett Reisman described his feelings the first time he went out on a space walk.
Space walking is how missions astronauts carry out outside the spacecraft is known, although the official term is Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA). Space walks are done to repair and install systems which cannot be accessed from inside the spacecraft. The Space Station has a robotic arm which enables extra-vehicular systems to be accessed. It can also carry the astronauts to the places requiring their intervention.
When exiting the spacecraft, the astronauts wear a space suit, which protects them against the harsh space environment and provides them with the life-support they need. For example, the heat inside the suit is regulated when the temperature reaches over 150 degrees centigrade when exposed to the sun and minus 150 degrees centigrade in the dark, oxygen supply, water, communication and more, The astronaut is usually tethered to the spacecraft with a cable, which is referred to as the umbilical, since like the unborn baby’s umbilical cord, it provides the astronaut with support from the spacecraft systems.
The preparations for an EVA can take a full day and the space walk itself is usually 6-8 hours long. The exit is via a pressure chamber where the pressure is equalized to the pressure outside, when exiting - and with the pressure inside the Station when returning. A space walk always involves two astronauts that can help one another if necessary.
The American record for extravehicular stays is held by our crew commander, Michael López-Alegría, who has racked up 67 hours and 40 minutes in 10 extra-vehicular activities. The women’s record-holder is American Astronaut Peggy Whitson, with 10 space walks and a total stay of 60 hours and 21 minutes. Peggy is taking part in all of our crew’s training and in future is going to be the head of the AX-2 crew.
A few more fun space walking facts:
1. Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov was the first-ever man to walk in space. This was on March 18 1965 while he was on board the spacecraft Voskhod 2. Several months later, the American Ed White embarked on a space walk while on the Gemini 4 mission on June 3, 1965.
2. Cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya is the first woman to have space walked, on July 25, 1984, while on board the Salyut 7 Space Station. She walked together with her fellow-cosmonaut Vladimir Dzhanibekov to make a repair which required welding, soldering and metal spraying, using a special tool which had been developed especially for this mission. American Catherine Sullivan hovered in space on October 11 1984 while on the STS-41-G mission of space shuttle Challenger.
3. Cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev walked in space for 82 hours. He is the human that has spent the most hours outside a spacecraft on 16 different missions. One of his most complicated missions was maintenance work outside the Russian space station Salyut 7 in 1984.
4. Astronaut Bruce McCandless hovered untethered outside Space Shuttle Challenger in 1984, while on the Space Shuttle’s STS-41-B mission.
One cannot forget the famous moonwalk performed by singer Michael Jackson and of course there’s Astronaut Neil Armstrong’s first step on the Moon on July 20, 1969 when his Eagle landing module landed on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission. With him was his crew-mate Buzz Aldrin and their extra-vehicular activity lasted two hours and 32 minutes. Apollo 11 was launched from launch pad 39-A at Cape Canaveral.
The challenges are interesting, the records fascinating