Two cosmonauts ventured outside the International Space Station Friday to help prepare the orbiting outpost for the arrival of a new Russia laboratory.
Cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin installed power and Ethernet cables on the orbiting lab's Russian segment. The cables will route power and data for Russia’s new "Nauka" Multipurpose Laboratory Module, which is slated to launch toward the International Space Station atop a Russian Proton rocket in upcoming months.
The cosmonauts also installed a new set of experiments on the station's exterior to study the effects of weightlessness in low-Earth orbit.
Flight engineers Yurchikhin and Misurkin opened the hatch on the station's Pirs airlock at 10:36 a.m. EDT to kick off a 7-hour, 29-minute spacewalk, the longest ever by Russian cosmonauts, according to Reuters. It was expected to take only six and a half hours.
Reuters reported that the spacewalk eclipsed by 13 minutes the Russians' previous record set in July 2000 outside the Mir space station. The longest spacewalk overall was an 8-hour, 56-minute outing in 2001 by two NASA astronauts working outside the International Space Station.
Friday's spacewalk began when Yurchikhin and Misrukin, wearing their bulky Russian Orlan spacesuits, opened the outer airlock hatch on the station’s Earth-facing Pirs docking compartment. It's the seventh career spacewalk for Yurchikhin, and the second excursion for Misurkin. You can watch the Russian spacewalk live on Space.com here, courtesy of NASA, until its conclusion.
The spacewalk is the first of two spacewalks by Yurchikhin and Misurkin in August, and the second dedicated to installing cables for the new Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory (its name means "Science" in Russian). The two cosmonauts began the cable work during a June spacewalk, and will venture outside the space station again on Aug. 22 to perform more maintenance work in orbit.
Friday's spacewalk is the 172nd dedicated to space station construction and maintenance since assembly began on the orbiting lab in 1998. The space station is the largest human-built object in space and is overseen by NASA, Russia and the space agencies of Europe, Canada and Japan.
While Yurchikhin and Misurkin worked outside, four other crew members watched over their work from inside the space station: NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy and Karen Nyberg, Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov and Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano. Together, the six spacefliers make up the space station's Expedition 36 crew.
Rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts have lived aboard the International Space Station continuously since 2000.