• SCIENCE

Koichi Wakata Completes 1st Spacewalk on ISS Mission

Courtesy of NASA TV
Astronaut Koichi Wakata, right, works outside the International Space Station on the first spacewalk of his career.

Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata performed the first spacewalk of his long career on Friday evening, leaving the confines of the International Space Station for a mission to attach a solar panel frame to the vessel’s exterior.

Wakata’s mission, performed in tandem with an American astronaut, took 7 hours 21 minutes and was completed on Saturday morning.

The 59-year-old Wakata, currently on a long-term stay at the ISS, left the central airlock for outer space shortly after 10:20 p.m. Friday. He and the American moved along the exterior of the ship and the two attached a frame for new solar power-generation panels.

Wakata is on his fifth space mission, the most among Japanese astronauts, but had never previously left the spaceship on what is also termed an EVA, or extravehicular activity.

Upon completing the task and just before re-entering the ISS, Wakata said in Japanese, “Thank you to everyone who has supported me. The brightly shining moon was so impressive; it looks like it is guiding us toward new explorations of space.”

The ISS has solar panels attached in eight locations to supply electrical power for living and experiments aboard the ship. The panels were installed between 2000 and 2009, and are gradually aging.

Work to replace them with new models is expected to be completed by around June this year, making it possible to secure a stable supply of electricity for ISS operations through 2030.