David Saint-Jacques has joined select company, becoming just the fourth Canadian astronaut to take part in a spacewalk and the first in 12 years as he began a roughly seven-hour mission today.
Saint-Jacques’ and NASA astronaut Anne McClain officially began their spacewalk just after 7:30 a.m. EDT according to the U.S. space agency, when they switched to battery power, officially disconnecting from the International Space Station.
The Canadian’s spacewalk comes on his first posting to the station, which began in December.
The jobs the pair are expected to perform include relocating a battery adaptor plate, upgrading the station’s wireless communication system and connecting jumper cables along the midpoint of the station’s main truss to give Canadarm2 an alternative power source.
Canadarm2 is a sort of robotic hand that is crucial to maintaining the space station, and the cables would allow the arm to make repairs in case of an outage without requiring a spacewalk.
Canadian Space Agency robotics flight controllers will provide support to the astronauts from mission control in Houston.
Retired Canadian astronaut Dave Williams, who is commenting on the spacewalk from the agency’s headquarters in suburban Montreal, says Saint-Jacques was in good spirits when he spoke to him.
Williams holds the Canadian record for the most spacewalks, having spent a total of just under 18 hours outside the space station three times during a 2007 mission.
Williams was also the last Canadian until Saint-Jacques to have performed a spacewalk.
The other two astronauts to have performed the feat are Steve MacLean in 2006 and Chris Hadfield — the first Canadian spacewalker — in 2001.
The Canadian Press