Update: Space junk reschedules Tri-Cities astronaut’s spacewalk for Thursday morning

Courtesy NASA
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  • Thomas Marshburn
    American physician and NASA astronaut

NASA astronaut Kayla Barron, of Richland, will have to wait until Thursday morning to make her first spacewalk.

She was scheduled to float into space Tuesday, but the National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced that morning that the spacewalk had been delayed.

Monday evening NASA received a debris notification for the International Space Station, NASA said.

Because it didn’t have time to assess the risk it would pose to the two NASA astronauts scheduled for the spacewalk — Thomas Marshburn and Barron — it postponed the spacewalk, it said.

Tuesday afternoon it said that it had determined that the orbit of the debris would not pose a risk to a spacewalk and rescheduled it for Thursday.

Live coverage of the spacewalk is expected to start at 2:30 a.m. PST Thursday on NASA TV, with the two NASA astronauts floating into space about 4:10 a.m. PST. NASA TV is on the internet at NASA.gov and is included in some cable TV and satellite TV packages.

While NASA did not say what type of debris was causing the concern, on Nov. 15 the seven astronauts on the space station were awakened and told to take shelter in their docked spaceships.

Every 90 minutes the space station was passing through or by a large amount of space debris after Russia blew up one of its satellites in an anti-missile test.

The explosion created a cloud of about 1,700 pieces of debris large enough to track, plus an uncounted number of smaller pieces.

“With its long and storied history in human spaceflight, it is unthinkable that Russia would endanger not only the American and international partner astronauts on the ISS, but also their own cosmonauts,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

Space debris

In a news briefing Monday on the spacewalk, NASA officials said that there was a 1 in 2,700 chance normally that space debris, either man-made or natural, would penetrate an astronaut’s pressurized spacesuit on the planned spacewalk.

The additional satellite debris would increase the danger by 7% which would be within the normal range, it said. The greatest risk from the satellite debris was within 24 hours of its destruction.

Barron and Marshburn were scheduled for a six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk to replace a faulty communications antenna mounted outside the space station.

The issue was not an immediate concern, because other systems on the space station could provide the functions of the two-decades-old system that was faulty.

NASA knew in September that a spacewalk to replace the antenna was a possibility.

Barron and Marshburn were able to practice the procedures for the replacement in the the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, before they left Earth.

Barron, Marshburn and two other astronauts arrived at the space station Nov. 11 for a six-month stay focused on research in the station’s microgravity environment. They joined another NASA astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts onboard.

Barron said earlier that a spacewalk was one of the experiences she was most looking forward to on the space station, but that it would also be one of the most difficult.

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