Two astronauts will venture outside the confines of the International Space Station today (Oct. 7) on the first U.S. spacewalk in months to upgrade the orbiting laboratory.
NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst will take to the outside of the station to perform maintenance on the orbiting outpost. The astronauts are expected to begin the spacewalk at about 8:10 a.m. EDT (1210 GMT), and you can watch the entire 6.5-hour spacewalk live on Space.com via NASA TV. Coverage begins at 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT).
Gerst and Wiseman will move a broken cooling system pump, which was replaced last year during a pair of urgent spacewalks, to a more permanent storage spot on the outpost. They are also scheduled to "install a new relay system that will provide backup power options to the mobile transporter, which moves the large robotic arm around the out outside of the space station," according to NASA. [Quiz: Do You Know the International Space Station?]
This will be the first spacewalk for both Gerst and Wiseman. Gerst will be wearing a suit with no stripes, while Wiseman will wear the spacesuit with red stripes.
Wiseman will venture out into the vacuum of space again on Oct. 15 for another spacewalk. Next week's EVA (short for extravehicular activity, another name for spacewalk) will be performed by NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore — a first-time spacewalker — with Wiseman. The NASA pair will focus on replacing some electronics that stopped working in May, according to the space agency.
"When you look out a little further as to how the EVAs stack up after the first of the year out into the spring, we're really going to start this transformation of the space station," Kenny Todd, space station integration operations manager, said during a news conference last week.
"We're going to be doing the things we need to do on these EVAs to prep for moving some modules around," Todd added. "All that is in preparation for being able to support future [commercial] crewed vehicles coming to station. We're trying to get out in front of that … We'll be prepping for moving modules, we'll be installing a new docking adapter system. All of that will be happening throughout the next several months onboard the station."
The two spacewalks this month were originally expected to occur in August; however, the spacewalks were postponed when officials found that there could have been an issue with a fuse in the batteries of the U.S. spacesuits. Replacement batteries were sent up to the space station aboard a robotic Dragon cargo ship launched in September. The spacewalk delay didn't aversely affect operations on the space station, according to NASA.