Two NASA astronauts will perform a spacewalk outside the International Space Station today (Feb. 21) to begin outfitting the orbiting lab’s docking ports to receive future private space taxis and people on Earth can watch the spacewalk live online.
Today’s spacewalk is the first of three for Wilmore and Virts to prepare the station for the installation of new docking stations, which will allow the station to link up with future space taxis ferrying new crews to the orbiting lab. NASA plans to use private spacecraft built by Boeing and SpaceX to fly American astronauts on trips to and from the station beginning in 2017.
Each of the upcoming spacewalks are expected to take approximately 6-and-a-half hours. Today’s excursion will mark Wilmore’s second spacewalk and a career first for Virts. The pair will be assisted by European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, who will work inside the space station.
(1926 GMT): The astronauts are safely back onboard the International Space Station and the spacewalk is officially over, with a total run time of 6 hours 41 minutes.
The current ISS crew comprises six specialists from the United States, Russia and the European Union. Wilmore is the mission commander. Flight engineers include Virts, Samantha Cristoforetti from the European Space Agency and three cosmonauts from the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) — Elena Serova, Alexander Samokutyaev and Anton Shkaplerov.