EVA with a Russian colleague

NASA has announced that on July 21, Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti will perform a spacewalk. She becomes the first European woman.

Credit: Samantha Cristoforetti / ESA / Twitter

In about three weeks, Thursday, July 21, Samantha Cristoforetti will perform her first spacewalk. She becomes the first European woman to face one. The mission to the east of the International Space Station (ISS), technically defined as extra-vehicular activity or EVA (acronym for Extra-vehicular activity), is pre-announced by NASA on the page dedicated to the events that will be broadcast on the “official TV” delluf. ‘agenzia aerospaziale american. The latest update concerns the Cristoforetti spacewalk, which will leave the ISS hatch at 16:00 Italian time. The event can therefore be followed in live streaming.

At present, virtually all details are missing on what the Italian astronaut from the European Space Agency (ESA) should do; It is unclear if he will be involved in the maintenance, repair or replacement of any component in the orbiting laboratory, but NASA said the operation could take up to 7 hours. Another interesting information is related to the excursion companion, the Russian cosmonaut from ROSCOMOS (the Russian space agency) Oleg Artemyev. This is undoubtedly a positive sign in light of the severe international crisis caused by the war in Ukraine and the growing tensions between the Kremlin and NATO countries. Despite the frictions of the last few weeks, cooperation on the ISS still seems to continue without any particular problems.

When released, Samantha Cristoforetti will be wearing the Russian “Orlan” spacesuit and not the EMU that NASA and ESA astronauts regularly wear. The main reason is without a doubt that the Italian astronaut in 2021 trained in Russia with the Orlan suit. In addition, since the end of May, European and American space agencies have decided to suspend space travel with EMUs due to a defect that causes water to accumulate inside the helmet. In 2013, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano was involved in a serious accident in which approximately 1.5 liters of water entered his helmet; he was in serious danger of drowning and had to return to the ISS as soon as possible. Other incidents have taken place recently; the latter hit ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, in which up to 25 centimeters of water accumulated in the helmet. Despite the “patches” that NASA has imposed, such as sponges to absorb water, the problems continued, and therefore it was decided to suspend the EVAs and send the suits back to Earth for a thorough inspection. Space suits are so valuable that new ones for lunar exploration will cost a total of $ 1 billion; the delay in their design also affected the postponement of the Artemis program.

With the Orlan suit, Samantha Cristoforetti will obviously not have such problems and will be able to carry out her mission with her colleague Artemyev, head of the Russian module of the ISS. The Italian astronaut should have been the first European chief of the entire International Space Station, but due to a ‘change of plans’ (probably related to the crisis in Ukraine), she could no longer fulfill this prestigious role. However, it is currently commanded by USOS, the US section of the orbital laboratory, which also includes modules from ESA, Japan and Canada. Currently, the Cristoforetti spacewalk is only confirmed by the update on NASA’s website, no specific details are missing, so it can not be ruled out that program changes are planned. All that remains is to wait for official communication from ESA or from the person directly affected, who recently took a magnificent picture of Italy from space.

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