First European spacewalk

Since 1988, twelve European astronauts, all men, have performed in total 30 spacewalks for a total duration of more than a week, from the space station Mir, the US Space Shuttle or the International Space Station. Thomas Pesquet and Luca Parmitano even had a total of six each. This July 22, the ride has finally come to a European to venture out of the station in a spacesuit: Samantha Cristoforetti, the Italian Space Agency astronaut The European Union made history by leaving the Russian Poisk module for a 7 hour 5 minute escape with veteran Oleg Artemiev (five excursions on the clock and already 34 hours 39 minutes spent trudging out of the ISS).

Samantha Cristoforetti during a yoga session on the ISS.

Samantha Cristoforetti succeeds Russian Svetlana Savitskaya and American Kathryn Sullivan in 1984, then to Chinese Wang Yaping in 2021, and is only on the 18the woman to “walk” in spacefollowed by 224 men since 1965.

Russian side exit

This excursion, the sixth on the ISS this year, is also unique because it takes place on the Russian segment of the station, with Russian Orlan diving suitsand not on the western segment, with the EMU suits that we have become accustomed to with the outings of Thomas Pesquet and Luca Parmitano, or more recently, Matthias Maurer.

In fact, no European astronaut has participated in a spacewalk using Russian spacesuits and procedures since Jean-Pierre Haigneré on the Mir station in 1999.


The Russian space fits Orlan, in the Poïsk model.

The reason was that the main purpose of this spacewalk was to continue working the European robotic arm ERA (European Robotic Arm), from the European Space Agency. Developed between 1998 and 2004, it remained grounded for fourteen years while Russia completed the preparation of the Nauka laboratory module. Since the Europeans had signed the agreement for its transport on the Russian module, it was supposed to take off in 2007. It finally joined the ISS only in July 2021.

Satellites with handles

With a little delay on planning, the two astronauts left the Poisk module at 16:50 (14:50 UT). Oleg Artemiev wore the spacesuit with red stripes, and Samantha Cristoforetti the one with the blue stripes.

Their first task was to release, by hand, ten cubesats designed by students and equipped with a handle to make their use easier.


Hand ejection of nanosatellites.

The two astronauts then withdrew from the airlock an “extension” to the ERA arm, which was stored outside the module. Then they went to the Nauka module to install a work platform near the arm. The latter can subsequently receive tools or experience.

They also removed the protective cover from a camera at the end of the arm for testing before use the external control panel of it (designed to be compatible with the gloves in the diving suits) to place it in “storage mode” and finally to replace the protective cover. The old storage area on the arm has also been cleared for us to install a tool platform for ERA on a future release.

Samantha ERA

Samantha Cristoforetti in front of the external control panel of the ERA arm.

The astronauts were then supposed to have worked on the Strela 2 mast, which is used to transfer astronauts to the Russian segment, but previous activities that took longer than expectedthe Orlan spacesuits warned their occupants that they had better return to the airlock of the Poïsk module, whose hatch they were able to close at 23.55 (21.55 GMT).

Another release on the Russian segment is planned for the end of the month, but Oleg Artemiev will appear together with his compatriot Denis Matveïev. Samantha Cristoforetti, meanwhile, must return to Earth in September or even in Octoberdepending on when the next SpaceX capsule can be launched.

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