Watch a NASA Astronaut Jettison Part of the ISS Into Space
NASA astronaut Victor Glover started his first space walk on Wednesday and did all the necessary tasks with his colleague Mike Hopkins on the International Space Station (ISS) during the nearly seven-hour excursion.
Viewers of the livestream event were shown the rare sight of an astronaut throwing a decommissioned section of the ISS into space.
Footage later posted on Twitter (below) shows Glover doing a quick countdown before launching a scientific antenna cover into space and carefully pushing it off the ISS into an orbit that ensures the object will soon burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.
. @ AstroVicGlover tosses a scientific antenna cover into space because it is no longer needed. It will eventually get into the earth’s atmosphere and burn safely. #AskNASA | https://t.co/yuOTrYN8CV pic.twitter.com/kBZfzqkJhw
– International Space Station (@Space_Station) January 27, 2021
Seasoned NASA engineer Mike Engle wrote in Air & Space last year about the process of dropping objects, explaining that launching decommissioned parts from the space station can be a risky process. This prompted him to help draw up an official ISS release policy to ensure that such activities are carried out safely.
“Throwing trash off a spaceship is not just a walk to a dumpster,” wrote Engle. “First and foremost, you have to make sure that whatever you throw away doesn’t come back and hit you – a scary possibility in the weird realm of orbital mechanics.”
The engineer added, “Simple trigonometry led to the conclusion that it would be sufficient to push an object away at two inches per second within a 30-degree cone centered on a line directly opposite the direction the ISS is headed moved as it circled the earth. ” Safely send the part on its way.
Engle’s explanation shows why Glover is so careful when pushing the science antenna cover away from the space station.
Glover and Hopkins performed a number of other duties during Wednesday’s extraterrestrial activity, as spacewalks are officially known. This included installing a Ka-band antenna on the outside of the European Space Agency’s Columbus module, which enables an independent high-bandwidth communications link to European ground stations, as well as some preparatory work for upcoming upgrades to the power system.
While this was Glover’s first spacewalk, Hopkins began his third after completing two more during his first six-month stay aboard the ISS between 2013 and 2014.
Another spacewalk with Hopkins and Glover takes place on Monday February 1st. So you can follow him live.
You can also enjoy our collection of stunning spacewalk images, captured since NASA’s first alien activity 56 years ago.