Space station’s crew upgrades batteries and prepares for all-female spacewalk

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Anne McClain swap batteries during a spacewalk. (NASA Photo)

Two rookie spacewalkers took on a battery replacement project on the International Space Station that will continue next week with history’s first all-female spacewalk.

During today’s six-hour, 39-minute operation, NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Anne McClain replaced a set of outdated nickel-hydrogen batteries with more powerful lithium-ion batteries for the power channel on one pair of the station’s solar arrays.

NASA said the astronauts also accomplished several get-ahead tasks, including scraping up bits of debris on the station’s exterior and photographing a bag of repair tools and the airlock thermal cover that’s opened and closed for spacewalks.

Another set of batteries for a different power channel is due to be replaced a week from today. McClain will be joined by NASA’s Christina Koch, who’ll be making her first-ever spacewalk. Women have been doing spacewalks since 1984, but always in the company of men. By coincidence, the two ground controllers charged with overseeing that spacewalk will be women as well.

Hague and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques are due to take on the third spacewalk in the series on April 8. They’ll lay out jumper cables between the Unity module and a spot on the midpoint of the station’s backbone to establish a redundant path for power to the station’s Canadian-built robotic arm.

They’ll also install cables to expand wireless communication coverage and hard-wired computer networking capability.

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