NASA news: Astronauts complete critical battery upgrade on the International Space Station

The NASA astronauts left the safety of the space station on Monday, January 20, for the second of three spacewalks planned for this month. Dr Meir and Mrs Koch ventured to the ISS’ Port 6 truss structure where the station’s batteries are housed.

The ISS batteries draw and store power from the station’s 240ft-long solar arrays for when the ISS passes through Earth’s shadow.

Monday’s spacewalk concluded around 6.33pm GMT (1.33pm EST) after six hours and 58 minutes in the vacuum of space.

NASA’s Mark Garcia said: “Today’s work included removing the last two nickel-hydrogen batteries from this area of the station’s backbone near the port solar array and moving them to an external platform.

“The batteries will be stored there until they can be disposed of in the next Japanese HTV cargo spacecraft after it delivers tons of supplies to the space station later this year.”

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Yesterday’s spacewalk also marked the third all-female spacewalk carried out by NASA astronauts on the ISS.

The first took place in October last year when Dr Meir and Mrs Koch began to upgrade the station’s batteries.

They next left the ISS on Wednesday, January 15, completing a spacewalk that lasted seven hours and 29 minutes.

The newly installed batteries on the ISS are lithium-ion batteries, which NASA hopes will provide the ISS with “improved and more efficient power capacities”.

At the end of the mission, Dr Meir acknowledged Martin Luther King Jr Day in the US, paying tribute to the civil rights hero.

Dr Meir said: “We may have all come on different ships but we’re in the same boat now.”

We may have all come on different ships but we’re in the same boat now

Jessica Meir, NASA astronaut

Mrs Koch also said Dr King “paved the way for not only us but so many who have a dream”.

As of yesterday, astronauts have conducted a total of 226 spacewalks on the ISS.

The missions add up to 59 days, six hours and 10 minutes outside of the space station.

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But the work is not over yet and one more spacewalk is scheduled to take before the end of the week.

On January 25, NASA astronaut Andrew “Drew” Morgan and ISS Commander Luca Parmitano from Italy will leave the space station to repair a cosmic particle detector mounted on the ISS.

The astronauts will install new cooling systems on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer or AMS.

Much like the battery upgrades, the AMS is being repaired over a series of spacewalks that took place in November and December last year.

On Monday, Dr Meir performed her third-ever spacewalk, having now spent nearly 22 hours in space.

Mrs Koch, however, has been in space six times now for a total of 42 hours and 15 minutes.

The astronaut, who on December 28, 2019, broke the record for the longest stay in space by a woman, is now in the third position for most time outside of the ISS by female spacewalker.

Mrs Koch is right behind Peggy Whitson and Sunita Williams for cumulative time in space as well as 21st among all spacewalkers.

The astronaut is expected to return to Earth on February 6 and Dr Meir is expected to return in April.

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