It’s a long ways
down. This is a view from the vantage point of astronaut Shane Kimbrough during
his spacewalk last Friday outside the International Space Station. Shane posted
this photo and wrote, “ View of our spectacular planet (and my boots)
during the #spacewalk yesterday
During the spacewalk with Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet of ESA, which lasted
just over six-and-a-half hours, the two astronauts successfully disconnected
cables and electrical connections to prepare for its robotic move Sunday, March
Two astronauts will
venture outside the space station again this Thursday, March 30 for the second
of three spacewalks. Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson will begin
spacewalk preparation live on NASA Television starting at 6:30 a.m. EST, with
activities beginning around 8 a.m. Watch live online here.
Space Fact: This will be the 200th spacewalk performed on the space station!
You can watch their entire 6.5 hour spacewalk live online! (Viewing info below!) To tell the two astronauts apart in their bulky spacewalk suits, Whitson will be wearing the suit with red stripes, while Jack Fischer will have white stripes.
Space Fact: The first-ever spacewalk on the International Space Station was performed on Dec. 7, 1998.
For Peggy, this will be her ninth spacewalk! She actually holds the record for most spacewalks by a female astronaut. For Fischer, this is his first time in space, and will be his first spacewalk. You can see from the below Tweet, he’s pretty excited!
Once both astronauts venture outside the Quest airlock, their tasks will focus on:
Replacing a large avionic box that supplies electricity and data connections to the science experiments
Replacing hardware stored outside the station
Specifically, the ExPRESS Carrier Avionics, or ExPCA will be replaced with a unit delivered to the station last month aboard the Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo spacecraft.
Ever wonder how astronauts prepare and practice for these activities? Think about it, wearing a bulky spacesuit (with gloves!), floating in the vacuum of space, PLUS you have to perform complex tasks for a period of ~6.5 hours!
In order to train on Earth, astronauts complete tasks in our Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL). It’s a gigantic pool with a full mock up of the International Space Station! Here’s a clip of astronauts practicing to install the ExPCA in that practice pool at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
In addition, Whitson and Fischer will install a connector that will route data to the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and help the crew determine the most efficient way to conduct future maintenance on the cosmic ray detector.
The astronauts will also install a protective shield on the Pressurized Mating Adapter-3, which was moved in March. This adapter will host a new international docking port for the arrival of commercial crew spacecraft.
Finally, the duo will rig a new high-definition camera and pair of wireless antennas to the exterior of the outpost.
On April 24, 2017, NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson established the new record for the most time spent in space by an American astronaut. She’s spent more than 76 weeks of her life floating in microgravity! It’s not the first time in her career at NASA that Whitson has established new milestones: here are just a few.
First NASA Science Officer
Peggy Whitson was the named the first NASA Science Officer aboard the space station in 2002. The position was created to work with the United States research community to understand and meet the requirements and objectives of each space station experiment.
First Female to Command the Space Station… Twice
Whitson became the first female to command the space station during Expedition 16 in 2008. Then Whitson became the first female to command the station twice during her current mission on April 9, 2017.
First Female Chief of the Astronaut Office
In 2009, Whitson became the first female and first non-pilot to achieve the most senior position for active astronauts, Chief of the Astronaut Office.
Most Spacewalks for a Female
On March 30, 2017, Peggy Whitson broke the record for most spacewalks and most time spent spacewalking for female astronauts. Suni Williams had previously held the record at 7 spacewalks.
Most Time In Space By A NASA Astronaut
At 1:27 a.m. ET on April 24, Peggy Whitson set the new record for cumulative time spent in space by an American astronaut. Jeff Williams previously set the record in 2016.
We will select between eight and 14 new astronaut candidates from among a record-breaking applicant class of more than 18,300, almost three times the number of applications the agency received in 2012 for the recent astronaut class, and far surpassing the previous record of 8,000 in 1978.
The candidates will be announced at an event at our Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas at 2 p.m. EDT on June 7. You can find more information on how to watch the announcement HERE.
1. What are the qualifications for becoming an astronaut?
Applicants must meet the following minimum requirements before submitting an application.
Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science or mathematics.
Degree must be followed by at least 3 years of related, progressively responsible, professional experience or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft
There have been 22 classes of astronauts selected from the original “Mercury Seven” in 1959 to the most recent 2017 class. Other notable classes include:
The fourth class in 1965 known as “The Scientists: because academic experience was favored over pilot skills.
The eighth class in 1978 was a huge step forward for diversity, featuring the first female, African American and Asian American selections.
The 16th class in 1996 was the largest class yet with 44 members – 35 U.S. astronauts and 9 international astronauts. They were selected for the frequent Space Shuttle flights and the anticipated need for International Space Station crewmembers.
The 21st class in 2013 was the first class to have 50/50 gender split with 4 female members and 4 male members.
These astronauts will be part of expanded crews aboard the space station that will significantly increase the crew time available to conduct the important research and technology demonstrations that are advancing our knowledge for missions farther into space than humans have gone before, while also returning benefits to Earth. They will also be candidates for missions beyond the moon and into deep space aboard our Orion spacecraft on flights that help pave the way for missions to Mars.
5. What will their roles be?
After completing two years of general training, these astronaut candidates will be considered full astronauts, eligible to be assigned spaceflight missions. While they wait for their turn, they will be given duties within the Astronaut Office at Johnson Space Center. Technical duties can range from supporting current missions in roles such as CAPCOM in Mission Control, to advising on the development of future spacecraft.
6. What will their training look like?
The first two years of astronaut candidate training will focus on the basic skills astronauts need. They’ll practice for spacewalks in Johnson’s 60-foot deep swimming pool, the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, which requires SCUBA certification. They’ll also simulate bringing visiting spacecraft in for a berthing to the space station using its robotic arm, Canadarm2, master the ins and outs of space station system and learn Russian.
And, whether they have previous experience piloting an aircraft of not, they’ll learn to fly our fleet of T-38s. In addition, they’ll perfect their expeditionary skills, such as leadership and fellowship, through activities like survival training and geology treks.
7. What kinds of partners will they work with?
They will join a team that supports missions going on at many different NASA centers across the country, but they’ll also interact with commercial partners developing spaceflight hardware. In addition, they will work with our international partners around the globe: ESA (the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos.
8. How does the selection process work?
All 18,353 of the applications submitted were reviewed by human resources experts to determine if they met the basic qualifications. Those that did were then each reviewed by a panel of about 50 people, made up primarily of current astronauts. Called the Astronaut Rating Panel, that group narrowed to applicants down to a few hundred of what they considered the most highly qualified individuals, whose references were then checked.
From that point, a smaller group called the Astronaut Selection Board brought in the top 120 applicants for an intense round of interviews and some initial medical screening tests. That group is further culled to the top 50 applicants afterward, who are brought back for a second round of interviews and additional screening. The final candidates are selected from that group.
9. How do they get notified?
Each applicant selected to become an astronaut receives a phone call from the head of the Flight Operations Directorate at our Johnson Space Center and the chief of the astronaut office. They’re asked to share the good news with only their immediate family until their selection has been officially announced.
10. How does the on boarding process work?
Astronaut candidates will report for duty at Johnson Space Center in August 2017, newly fitted flight suits in tow, and be sworn into civil service. Between their selection and their report for duty, they will make arrangements to leave their current positions and relocate with their family to Houston, Texas.
NASA astronaut Jeanette J. Epps (Ph.D.) was selected as an astronaut in 2009. She has been assigned to her first spaceflight, which is scheduled to launch in May 2018. Her training included scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in International Space Station systems, spacewalk training, robotics, T‐38 flight training and wilderness survival training.
Before becoming an astronaut, Epps worked as a Technical Intelligence Officer at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Born in Syracuse, New York. Enjoys traveling, reading, running, mentoring, scuba diving and family.
She has a Bachelor of Science in Physics from LeMoyne College, as well as a Master of Science and Doctorate of Philosophy in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland.