Credit: NASA.

Russian cosmonauts accidentally set a new spacewalk record while repairing old radio antenna

What was supposed to be a standard six-and-a-half hour mission outside the ISS meant to replace an old electronics box, turned into a new spacewalk record, with the time in space totaling eight hours and 13 minutes. It’s the longest Russian spacewalk and the fifth-longest spacewalk in human spaceflight history.

Credit: NASA.

Credit: NASA.

On February 2,  Russian cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov were tasked with upgrading sensitive tech for a high-gain antenna that communicates with Russian mission controllers. The antenna was first installed in space in 2000 and was supposed to communicate with a novel fleet of Russian satellites. The satellites in question, however, took another decade before they launched, and by that time, the electronics that were serving the antenna’s relay-link became obsolete, hence last weekend’s mission.

The plan looked simple enough, but, a lot of things can go wrong in space. This time, the antenna on the box wasn’t extending after being folded up for the upgrade. For hours more, the Russian crew, both in space and on the ground at mission control, toiled to push and rotate the antenna into the correct position.

Eventually, the antenna was finally up after a grueling eight hours and 13 minutes in space. Only one problem though: the antenna ended up 180° in the wrong direction. But at least the Russians now have a new record under their belt, beating the previous Russian record set by cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazanski on December 27, 2013, by about 6 minutes.

Despite the skewed position, Russia’s mission control reported that the antenna was “operating and in good shape.” As for the old, 27-kg electronics box, the cosmonauts took good care of it: a nice shove towards Earth’s atmosphere where it will eventually disintegrate. Check out this one-of-a-kind footage showing how the box was jettisoned.

It was the 207th spacewalk in support of International Space Station assembly and maintenance.The longest spacewalk, which lasted 8 hours and 56 minutes, was carried out by NASA astronauts James S. Voss and Susan J. Helms on March 11, 2001. The next spacewalk is scheduled for February 15.

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