NASA astronauts conduct first spacewalk of 2021

Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover arrived at ISS in November

In this image taken from NASA video, NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins works outside the International Space Stations European lab on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Hopkins and Victor Glover went spacewalking Wednesday to install a high-speed data link outside the International Space Stations European lab and connect cables for an experiment platform awaiting activation for almost a year. (NASA via AP) (Uncredited, NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A pair of astronauts went spacewalking Wednesday to install a high-speed data link outside the International Space Station’s European lab.

NASA’s Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover floated out early and headed straight to Columbus, one of the three high-tech labs at the orbiting outpost.

The spacewalkers begin their work at 6:28 a.m. and expected to be outside the ISS in the vacuum of space for more than about six-and-a-half hours. Hopkins was identifiable on NASA TV because he is wearing the extravehicular space suit with the red stripes. Glover’s suit did not have stripes.

The astronauts hauled with them a fancy new antenna for Columbus that will provide faster communication with European researchers via satellites and ground stations. The boxy antenna is the size of a small refrigerator. Glover uncovered the antenna and let the cover go into space as planned.

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Danish astronaut Andreas “Andy” Morgensen guided the spacewalkers from Mission Control in Houston.

The spacewalkers also needed to hook up power and data cables for an experiment platform for science research, called Bartolomeo, outside the European lab that’s been awaiting activation for almost a year.

About four hours into their spacewalk the astronauts encountered an issue with some of the cables being installed to ESA’s science communication antenna. They were troubleshooting with mission control to figure out a workaround.

“This is issue is not unusual due to cable stiffness in space,” NASA said in a tweet.

SpaceX delivered Bartolomeo to the space station last spring. The shelf was installed with the station’s robot arm, but had to wait until Wednesday’s spacewalk to get hooked up and activated.

Two cables were successfully secured to the Bartolomeo platform and providing power but a third was not installed so the platform was not yet fully operating by the end of the spacewalk Wednesday, NASA officials said in recap. The astronauts will continue the work Wednesday during another spacewalk.

Airbus, which built and runs Bartolomeo, is selling space on the platform for private research projects. It’s Europe’s first commercial venture outside the station.

This spacewalk marks the third in Hopkins’ career and the first for Glover. Both astronauts arrived to the space station in November aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

About five-and-a-half hours into the spacewalk the astronauts were ahead of schedule and began completing on other tasks before heading into the airlock.

Hopkins and Glover worked up an appetite during their six-hour spacewalk.

“It’s definitely snack time,” Hopkins said, joking he hoped NASA astronaut Kate Rubins would have some waiting in the airlock.

Inside the ISS, Rubins replied, “we’ll have snacks for you later.”

The astronauts headed back into the airlock for their well-deserved lunch just after 1:30 p.m. ET. The pair spent nearly seven hours spacewalking.

Hopkins and Glover will perform a second spacewalk on Monday to complete battery upgrades to the station’s solar power grid.

About the Authors:

Emilee is a digital journalist for News 6 and, where she writes about space and Central Florida news. Previously, Emilee was a space writer and web editor for the Orlando Sentinel and a producer at the Naples Daily News.