French astronaut Thomas Pesquet floated into space on his first-ever spacewalk Friday, on a mission to help upgrade the power system outside the International Space Station with new, refrigerator-sized lithium-ion batteries.
Wearing a white spacesuit with the French flag emblazoned on one shoulder, Pesquet and American astronaut Shane Kimbrough switched on their spacesuits’ internal battery power to mark the official start of the spacewalk at 6:22 am (1122 GMT), more than a half hour earlier than scheduled.
The men’s goal for the six-and-a-half hour spacewalk is to connect adapter plates for three modern lithium-ion batteries.
The new batteries weigh about 428 pounds (194 kilograms) each, and replace older, but far lighter, nickel hydrogen batteries.
The batteries’ role is to store power for the orbiting lab as it flies in Earth shadow.
The space station travels at a speed of more than 17,000 miles (27,350 kilometers) per hour, and circles the Earth about every 90 minutes, periodically moving through light and darkness.
The power upgrade work was begun earlier this month during a spacewalk by Kimbrough and American astronaut Peggy Whitson.
Eventually, all 48 of the old batteries on board will be replaced with new ones.