Two International Space Station (ISS) astronauts Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Norishige Kanai of JAXA will take a six and half hour spacewalk to move the arms of Canadarm2 to the long-term storage unit of the ISS.
The spacewalk was planned out in January 29th but then it was postponed to February 15th due to some technical issues with the Latching End Effector (LEE). However, NASA decided to reschedule it citing the docking of Russian Progress 69 cargo due on Thursday 5.43 a.m. EST. This was the 3rd spacewalk expedition in 2018 and 208th spacewalk made for assembly and maintenance of the space station since its assembly. Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Norishige Kanai are currently aboard the ISS and waiting for their expedition soon. During the 6.5 hour long spacewalk, both astronauts will have to move the hand or Latching End Effector (LEE) of Canadarm2, a Canadian built robotic arm.
The spacewalkers will move the payload attachment from Mobile Base System Rail Car to Quest Airlock on the space station. The LEE was recently replace after it faced certain functional issues during Expedition 53 in October last year. So it will now be brought back to Earth and will be repaired, after which, it will be sent back to the ISS as a spare. The two astronauts will also move an aging, but functional LEE which was detached from the arm on January 23 spacewalk and move it from its temporary storage outside to a long-term location.
The Canadian Space Agency has already arranged software updates for the new LEE and once the replacement completes, the LEE will resume working normally. The 6.5 hour long spacewalk will be first of its kind for Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai, while it will be the fourth spacewalk experience for NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei. A 6.5 hour long expedition in absolute vacuum – zero gravity – no air – no anything – celestial fantasies, ain’t it?