It was just this week that the European Space Agency (ESA) sent British astronaut Tim Peake to the International Space Station via a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to join Expedition 45 and to carry out experiments over the course of his 6-month duties aboard the International Space Station.
The astronaut went up into space with two additional space men – NASA’s Tim Kopra and Roscosmos’ Yuri Malenchenko – replacing the three astronauts that recently returned to Earth and joining NASA’s Scott Kelly and Roscosmos’ Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov aboard the International Space Station.
This week, Peake may be helping on his most important mission yet, and that’s helping NASA’s Scott Kelly and Tim Kopra as they go outside of the International Space Station in their ultra-expensive space suits to perform a spacewalk and try to fix a damaged rail known as a “mobile transporter” that the International Space Station’s robotic arm relies on to move all around the International Space Station.
It’s thought that a stuck brake handle could have something to do with the rail not allowing the arm to move freely, although because it hasn’t yet been evaluated up close, it’s still too close to judge at this point in time.
Peake will remain inside of the International Space Station while the other two astronauts do their job, and it will be Peake that helps guide them through getting their space suits on and managing the air locking mechanism that keeps the International Space Station’s oxygen supply from leaking out into the vacuum of outer space.
The event could occur as early as this Monday, according to NASA, but may even be later in the future depending on the situation. Since it's Peake's first time in space, and the first time that the U.K. has ever sent an astronaut to the International Space Station, it's a pretty big deal.
For Scott Kelly and Tim Kopra, spacewalks are nothing new; Kelly has been on a total of three spacewalks during his career as an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, including one recent spacewalk where he upgraded components and performed some routine maintenance, and Kopra has been on two of them.
Over the weekend, the astronauts will be coming up with a plan to try and fix the stuck brake handle so that the robotic arm can continue to get where it needs to go. It’s estimated that such a repair could take about three and a half hours to complete, although schedules have been known to be shorter or longer depending on the situation, so that’s not a solid time to go by just yet.
If it can be fixed, then great, but if it can’t be fixed so easily, then it’s a good thing that NASA might be getting a huge budget increase because they might need it.