Two U.S. astronauts floated outside the International Space Station on Monday in a hastily planned spacewalk to move a stuck rail car before a Russian cargo ship reaches the outpost on Wednesday, NASA said. Station commander Scott Kelly and newly arrived flight engineer Timothy Kopra were due to spend about 3.5 hours on an abbreviated spacewalk to latch the stalled car into a parking spot along the station's exterior truss.
The car serves as a mobile base for a Canadian-built robotic crane to move rails outside the station, a $100 billion research laboratory that files about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.
The rail car jammed about 4 inches (10 cm) short of its intended latching point last Wednesday, blocked by a crew equipment cart that was left with its brake on.
Kelly and Kopra fixed the stuck rail car in 15 minutes, leaving them time to tackle work to prepare the station for new modules, said mission commentator Rob Navias from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
After quickly completing their primary objective for the spacewalk, Kelly and Kopra tackled several get-ahead tasks. Kelly routed a second pair of cables in preparation for International Docking Adapter installment work to support U.S. commercial crew vehicles, continuing work he began during a November spacewalk. Kopra routed an Ethernet cable that ultimately will connect to a Russian laboratory module. They also retrieved tools that had been in a toolbox on the outside of the station, so they can be used for future work.
The three-hour and 16-minute spacewalk was the third for Kelly, who is nine months into a yearlong mission and the second for Kopra, who arrived to the station Dec. 15. It was the 191st in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Crew members have now spent a total of 1,195 hours and 20 minutes working outside the orbital laboratory.