ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, living and working on the International Space Station, will venture out into space on Tuesday afternoon. This will be the first European spacewalk since 2009 and the first ever by an Italian astronaut.
The spacewalk will begin at 12:15 GMT (14:15 CEST) when his partner Chris Cassidy opens the Quest airlock hatch and ventures out into the void. Luca will follow a few minutes later.
“This is one of the prime objectives of [the mission] and it’s really an honour to be able to do this,” Luca told ESA mission controllers last Thursday while preparing for the adventure. “Siamo pronti ragazzi!” – “Guys, we’re ready!”
Before the sortie begins, Luca and Chris will spend several hours preparing their spacesuits and the emergency systems that would enable them to return to the Station in the event of a problem. Once everything is checked, the pair can begin their six-hour excursion.
Their tasks include laying cable routings for the future Russian Nauka laboratory module, installing and replacing communication and heat management systems, and retrieving a camera and experiments for return to Earth.
Part of his work will involve Luca standing on a work platform on the Station’s robotic arm under the control of NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg inside the Cupola observation module.
Their long day will finish around 18:00 GMT (20:00 CEST) when they return inside NASA’s Quest airlock. Their exertions will be followed by a quiet day to allow them to recover and begin preparing for their second spacewalk in mid-July.
Chris Cassidy is already a veteran of three Station spacewalks, spending more than 18 hours outside to outfit Japan’s Kibo laboratory module.
For rookie Luca, the spacewalk will surely be one of his most memorable moments. “I am more than excited to perform a spacewalk,” Luca says with a broad smile.
He has been coached by experts at ESA’s astronaut centre and NASA, as well as by ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang, whose five sorties are the European record.
Christer recalled that, “After all the training and simulations, the first real view we had out of the open airlock hatch was simply stunning. I had to stop for a while to admire the Earth and black space.”
Luca has promised to share his experiences with us as soon as possible after his walk on Twitter: just follow @astro_luca and fly with him on Volare!