In legend, the bright sun was a dazzling temptation for Icarus and so, too, it is for NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, who appears to touch our closest star in a photo snapped during a spacewalk this week.
But unlike Icarus, the boy who flew too close to the sun and fell back to Earth when his wax wings melted, Williams revels in the sun's bright light while floating outside the International Space Station. The image was taken during a spacewalk to finish repairs on a vital power unit on Wednesday (Sept. 5).
The photo shows Williams, a flight engineer with the station's Expedition 32 crew, in a spacesuit appearing to grab the sun with her right hand during a break from space station repairs. Her crewmate Akihiko Hoshide, of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, snapped the spacewalk photo during a rest break. If you look close, you can see a reflection of Hoshide taking the picture in the faceplate of William's helmet.
Williams and Hoshide spent six hours and 28 minutes working to remove a stuck bolt using improvised tools made from spare parts, including a toothbrush. The bolt got jammed during a marathon eight-hour spacewalk on Aug. 30 by the two astronauts, and prevented the replacement of a main bus switching unit, which routes power for the space station systems.
With the new tools in hand, this week's spacewalk went smoothly and the astronauts replaced the power unit, as well as a broken camera on the space station's robotic arm.
Wednesday's excursion marked the sixth spacewalk for Sunita Williams, who will soon take command of the space station's Expedition 33 crew. It was the second spacewalk for Hoshide. The space station is currently home to six spaceflyers representing Russia, the United States and Japan.
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Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at Space.com and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.