In a remarkable feat on Wednesday, a Russian cosmonaut embarked on an unprecedented journey, using a robotic arm on the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS) during a lengthy spacewalk.
The spacewalk showcased the prowess of the 37-foot European Robotic Arm, which had been affixed to the ISS in 2021 as part of Russia’s Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module initiative. This impressive arm aimed to rival the capabilities of the 58-foot Canadarm2, a stalwart tool used extensively in the North American sector of the ISS.
While initially designed for transporting heavy payloads outside the Russian segment of the ISS, the arm’s capacity to ferry humans was yet to be validated. This mission sought to bridge that gap with a portable work platform ingeniously added to the end of the ERA.
Sergey Prokopyev’s spacewalk served as a crucial demonstration that the robotic arm, when equipped with the added work platform, could reliably maneuver cosmonauts for upcoming missions. The successful completion of this operation not only unveiled the arm’s potential for human transport but also highlighted its capability to conduct essential maintenance tasks.
Before attaching the portable work platform and undertaking the pioneering ride on ERA, the cosmonaut uninstalled three debris shields on the Russian Rassvet module of the ISS. These shields were critical in safeguarding the module against micrometeoroids, protecting areas previously exposed due to removing an airlock and radiator.
As the spacewalk neared its conclusion, the cosmonauts meticulously discarded various pieces of debris, including protective covers and launch restraints that had secured the work platform before its installation. With the trash effectively managed, the mission’s duration, stretched over six hours, came to a close, with both Prokopyev and Petelin re-entering the ISS.
This remarkable event added another achievement to the ISS’s history, marking the 267th spacewalk conducted for assembly and maintenance tasks on the station. This year’s tenth spacewalk was recorded, signifying the ongoing commitment to the station’s upkeep.
Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin also carved their names further into space exploration’s annals, with Prokopyev completing his eighth spacewalk and Petelin his sixth.