On Wednesday, a Russian cosmonaut hitched a ride on a robotic arm installed on the outside of the International Space Station, during a six and a half hour spacewalk.
In doing so, our ghost riding cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev became the first to test ride the European Robotic Arm (ERA), which was controlled by compatriot Dmitri Petelin from inside its module.
The 37-foot arm was installed on the ISS in 2021 as part of Russia's Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module, to rival the capabilities of the sturdy North American workhorse Canadarm2, which is nearly 58 feet long.
Though its primary purpose is to move heavy payloads outside the Russian part of the ISS, until today its human-ferrying capabilities were unproven. Such was the purpose of this latest spacewalk, during which a portable work platform was outfitted at the end of ERA.
Prokopyev demonstrated that, with the work platform installed, the robotic arm can reliably be used to position cosmonauts during future missions.
Some much-needed maintenance was also in order.
Before affixing the portable work platform and test riding ERA, the cosmonauts installed three debris shields on the Russian Rassvet module of the ISS, protecting it against stray micrometeoroids. The shields cover exposed areas of the module where an airlock and a radiator were removed.
To close out the spacewalk, the cosmonauts carefully jettisoned several pieces of debris, including protective covers and launch restraints used to secure the the work platform before it was installed.
With the trash taken care of, that spelled the end of the over six-hour mission, and both cosmonauts re-entered the space station.
This marked the 267th spacewalk completed for assembly and maintenance purposes aboard the ISS, and the tenth this year. For the cosmonauts, it's now the eighth spacewalk completed by Prokopyev, and the sixth for Petelin.
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