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NASA spacewalk partially hooks up new science platform

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NASA spacewalk partially hooks up new science platform
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins helps Victor Glover back into the International Space Station after he and Mike Hopkins completed their spacewalk Wednesday. Photo courtesy of NASA

ORLANDO, Fla., Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Two NASA astronauts were unable to complete work during a spacewalk Wednesday on hooking up Europe's new Bartolomeo science platform outside the International Space Station.

Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover spent 6 hours, 56 minutes on the spacewalk. The assignment was the first spacewalk for Glover, the first Black astronaut to live and work aboard the space station.

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Nearly halfway through the chores, however, a space agency commentator noted that "Hopkins and Glover have encountered issues making the cable connections to the Bartolomeo science platform."

A lever that is supposed to help connect power cabling on the platform became stuck in the wrong position, and a heating element needed to beam signals to the ground didn't start as expected, NASA said.

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After another hour in space, the astronauts connected two of three power cables and successfully started the heating element, according to the space agency. But a third cable could not be connected and had to be tied down with wire until a solution could be worked out.

Because of the cable problem, Bartolomeo is not yet functional, NASA said, but an antenna on the platform now is sending signals to Earth.

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Glover, like all astronauts, trained in NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at Johnson Space Center, where trainees wear suits underwater that simulate weightlessness.

"We also give them videos to walk through, as well as conferences where we get to talk with them, and give them all the experience they need so they feel confident going into the spacewalk," Vincent Lacourt, a NASA flight director, said in a press conference last week.

Hopkins and Glover had attempted to startup the Bartolomeo platform, which is installed outside the European Space Agency's Columbus module.

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Bartolomeo is a high-tech balcony about 6.5 feet wide by 8 feet long attached to the space station. Operated by Airbus, it is the first commercial facility of its kind in space. It is designed to house science experiments, such as small 3D printers, to allow work in microgravity.

The platform has direct views of Earth, 12 slots for science experiment chambers and a high-speed communication link to operators in Europe.

The astronauts donned their spacesuits Sunday to ensure they fit properly, said Rick Henfling, also a NASA flight director.

"As you know, when astronauts get into zero gravity their bodies tend to grow and they get a little bit taller," so spacesuits must be tried on in space before going out in the vacuum of space, Henfling said.

Hopkins and Glover are scheduled for another spacewalk Monday, when they will finish a long-term battery upgrade for the space station's power system.

20 years aboard the International Space Station

The International Space Station is photographed by Expedition 56 crew members from a Soyuz spacecraft after undocking on October 4, 2018. NASA astronauts Andrew Feustel and Ricky Arnold and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev executed a fly-around of the orbiting laboratory to take pictures of the space station before returning home after spending 197 days in space. Photo courtesy of NASA/Roscosmos

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