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Astronauts conduct first ISS spacewalk of 2023

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Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency embarks on the first spacewalk at the International Space Station in 2023. Image courtesy of NASA
Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency embarks on the first spacewalk at the International Space Station in 2023. Image courtesy of NASA

Jan. 20 (UPI) -- Two astronauts embarked on the first spacewalk of 2023 on Friday as they worked toward upgrading the International Space Station's power generation system.

NASA astronaut Nicole Mann teamed up with Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency for the morning spacewalk, which NASA officials said lasted seven hours and 21 minutes. They installed a modification kit at the far end of the ISS, allowing for the future installation of the roll-out solar array.

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The spacewalk was scheduled to start at 8:15 a.m., EST, but NASA officials said the operation was ahead of schedule with both astronauts setting their spacesuits to battery power about a minute earlier, marking the official start of the mission.

"Wakata and Mann were joined on Thursday by NASA Flight Engineer Frank Rubio for final spacewalk preparations," NASA said in a statement. "The two spacewalkers along with Rubio staged tools and hardware inside the Quest airlock during the morning. The trio then spent the afternoon reviewing spacewalk steps and procedures before readying the two spacesuits for operations."

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Friday's spacewalk was the first for Mann and Wakata, who came aboard the ISS on SpaceX's Crew-5 mission in October. The pair re-entered the space station after their work Friday afternoon.

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Astronauts have already installed four of the six planned ISS Roll-Out Solar Arrays on previous spacewalks.

Rubio and astronaut Josh Cassada on Dec. 22 took part in a 7 1/2 hour spacewalk to install and deploy a roll-out solar array on the station's Port-4 truss segment. The pair also installed another roll-out solar array on the Starboard-4 truss segment on Dec. 3.

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NASA had earlier postponed the Dec. 22 spacewalk because of the potential of space junk in the area. The space station was moved to avoid the fragment of the upper stage of an old Russian Fregat-SB, allowing the spacewalk to continue.

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