'Exhilarated' British astronaut starts first spacewalk
MIAMI, United States (UPDATED) – Astronaut Tim Peake on Friday became the first Briton to walk in space, undertaking a tricky mission to replace an electrical unit while under cover of darkness.
Peake and US colleague Tim Kopra switched their spacesuits on to battery power at 7:48 am (1248 GMT), marking the official start of the floating debut for Peake, who is also the first British astronaut to fly to the orbiting International Space Station.
As Peake climbed out of the space station, American astronaut Scott Kelly positioned a camera from inside so that the British flag on the arm of Peake's spacesuit was visible to viewers watching the outing live on NASA television.
"Great to see the Union flag out there," said Kelly.
"It's great to be wearing it. It's a privilege," answered Peake.
In a blog post on Thursday, the eve of the spacewalk, Peake said he felt "exhilarated" but had "no time to dwell on these emotions."
The 43-year-old Peake's first job was to haul a bulky component called a sequential shunt unit, contained in a white bag as big as a suitcase.
He carried the unit, which would weigh 90 kilograms on Earth, to the far end of the space station's truss, about 60 meters from the exit.
The replacement voltage regulator unit is nicknamed "Dusty," because it arrived on the space station back in 1999, said NASA commentator Rob Navias.
Kopra, 52, making his third career spacewalk, toted the tools needed to remove the old unit and replace it with the new one.
The team's work must be precisely timed to coincide with a nighttime pass of the space station to avoid any sparks from electrical current that might remain in the solar-powered equipment.
The ISS circles the Earth every 90 minutes, and spends 31 of those minutes in the dark.
The nighttime job was to begin at 9:37 am (1437 GMT).
Afterward, they will route some cable and install a vent in a cramped space that spacewalk officer Paul Dum described this week as a "challenging work site."
Writing on his blog, Peake said he had done months of training while on Earth for the mission, including virtual reality sessions to train "for the worst-case scenario of becoming detached from the space station."
Each step of the six-and-a-half hour spacewalk has been "meticulously planned," he added.
"But I guess nothing can prepare for the feeling of being outside of a spacecraft in the vacuum of space."
The International Space Station is expected to remain in operation until 2024.
The current spacewalk aims to restore full power to the station, and is the 192nd for support, maintenance and construction of the research lab. – Rappler.com