Thomas Pesquet's spacewalk successful despite setbacks
Sylvie Claire / June 17, 2021
French astronaut Thomas Pesquet returned safely to the International Space Station on Wednesday after a spacewalk that was marred by several setbacks and failed to complete the installation of a new solar panel as planned.
The mission of Thomas Pesquet and his crewmate, American astronaut Shane Kimbrough, lasted more than seven hours, hanging in weightlessness outside the Station, 400 kilometers above the Earth.
The goal of the mission was to position, attach, connect and deploy a next-generation solar panel, called iROSA, the first in a series of six panels designed to increase the power generation capabilities of the ISS.
But halfway through the mission, the mission had to be temporarily paused due to concerns about Shane Kimbrough's suit.
The Nasa teams observed an interruption in the transmission of data allowing to control the state of his suit, as well as a sudden peak in the pressure of the cooling system of his suit.
The astronaut had to return to the Station's airlock and perform a reset, before exiting. Meanwhile, Thomas Pesquet was waiting for him, hooked by the feet to a robotic arm.
The mission has finally resumed, the control data being again available and stabilized. Shane Kimbrough was at no time "in danger", reassured the U.S. Space Agency.
But a precious hour was lost.
The two astronauts then moved the solar panel, folded on itself in a big roll of about 350 kilos, to the place where it should be installed.
They fixed it and tried to unfold it, but an alignment problem interfered with the mechanism, preventing its deployment.
The two astronauts then returned to the Station.
They had started the internal battery of their suit seven hours and fifteen minutes before, at 12H11 GMT, marking the official beginning of their expedition.
On Sunday, the same team would normally repeat the operation to install a second solar panel.