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Watch live: Astronauts plan spacewalk to hook up new science platform

ORLANDO, Fla., Jan. 27 (UPI) — Two NASA astronauts plan to begin a spacewalk early Wednesday morning to finish installing Europe’s Bartolomeo science platform on the International Space Station’s exterior.

Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover are to begin the expedition outside the space station at 7 a.m. EST. The assignment will be the first spacewalk for Glover, who is the first Black astronaut to live and work aboard the space station.

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NASA estimates the spacewalk will last 6 1/2 hours.

Glover, like all astronauts, trained in NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at Johnson Space Center, where trainees wear suits underwater that simulate weightlessness.

“We also give them videos to walk through, as well as conferences where we get to talk with them, and give them all the experience they need so they feel confident going into the spacewalk,” Vincent Lacourt, a NASA flight director, said in a press conference last week.

Hopkins and Glover will complete cable and antenna rigging for the Bartolomeo platform, which is installed outside the European Space Agency’s Columbus module.

Bartolomeo is a high-tech balcony about 6.5 feet wide by 8 feet long attached to the space station. Operated by Airbus, it is the first commercial facility of its kind in space.

Bartolomeo is designed to house science experiments, such as small 3D printers, to allow work in microgravity.

The platform has direct views of Earth, 12 slots for science experiment chambers and a high-speed communication link to operators in Europe. The astronauts also will hook up that communication system.

The astronauts donned their spacesuits Sunday to ensure they fit properly, said Rick Henfling, also a NASA flight director.

“As you know, when astronauts get into zero gravity their bodies tend to grow and they get a little bit taller,” so spacesuits must be tried on in space before going out in the vacuum of space, Henfling said.

Hopkins and Glover are scheduled for another spacewalk Monday, when they will finish a long-term battery upgrade for the space station’s power system.

20 years aboard the International Space Station

The International Space Station is photographed by Expedition 56 crew members from a Soyuz spacecraft after undocking on October 4, 2018. NASA astronauts Andrew Feustel and Ricky Arnold and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev executed a fly-around of the orbiting laboratory to take pictures of the space station before returning home after spending 197 days in space. Photo courtesy of NASA/Roscosmos

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Science News – UPI.com

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