Monday 16 September 2019

Cosmonauts throw out the rubbish as they upgrade International Space Station

The Russian spacewalkers cast away the old electronics box after replacing it with a new one.

The International Space Station passing over Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire (Neil Squires/PA)
The International Space Station passing over Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire (Neil Squires/PA)

By Marcia Dunn

Spacewalking Russian cosmonauts have removed an old electronics box as part of an antenna upgrade at the International Space Station and then threw it overboard as a piece of junk.

Commander Alexander Misurkin used both gloved hands to shove the bundle away from the Russian side of the orbiting complex. The unit, bearing white insulation, with straps dangling, tumbled harmlessly away, high above the North Atlantic.

“There it goes,” Nasa’s Mission Control reported from Houston. The 60lb box was hurled in a direction that will not intersect with the space station, according to Nasa officials.

With the obsolete unit finally out of the way four hours into the spacewalk, Mr Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov set about installing the new one.

Original to the 250-mile-high outpost, the antenna and associated equipment has been up there since 2000. The new electronics box will improve the communications with Russia’s Mission Control outside Moscow.

It was the second spacewalk in as many weeks. On January 23, two US astronauts went out to give a new hand to the station’s big robotic arm. Nasa had planned another spacewalk this week, but bumped it to mid-February because engineers needed extra time to get the mechanical hand working.

Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin, left, and Anton Shkaplerov performed the space walk (Nasa/AP)

While the Russians routinely throw old equipment and used towels overboard during spacewalks, Nasa prefers to secure no-longer-needed items or, if possible, bring them inside. All but SpaceX’s cargo ships are filled with rubbish, once emptied of their contents, and set loose to burn up in the atmosphere. The discarded electronics box will re-enter and burn up, too; Mission Control said it did not know when that will occur.

Mr Misurkin will return to Earth at the end of this month with two Nasa crewmates.

The space station is home to two Russians, three Americans and one Japanese astronaut.

PA Media

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