Fuglesang prepares for record spacewalk

Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang will go out on a dangerous spacewalk on Tuesday, walking 60 metres from the International Space Station - further than anyone has previously managed.

During the six hours long spacewalk, Fuglesang and American colleague Robert Curbeam will continue to build the space station, by installing the P5 integrated truss onto the station, taken by the space shuttle Discovery. The P5 was lifted out of Discovery’s payload bay using the shuttle’s robotic arm.

Fuglesang and Curbeam were on Tuesday morning waiting in the station’s airlock, where the pressure will be lowered to the pressure normally found on Earth at 10,000 feet above sea level. This will protect the two astronauts against decompression sickness as they go to the even lower pressure of spacesuits later on Tuesday.

At 16.47 Swedish time, the two astronauts were due to be woken up by music. After a four hours preparation for the spacewalk, where their suits will be thoroughly inspected, the two were scheduled commence their walk in space at 21.42. It will be Fuglesang’s first spacewalk and Curbeam’s fourth.

The white space suits used by the astronauts during the walk will be secured by two wires. The suits are also equipped with small rockets that will help them move and return to the station in case of an emergency. The last task for the spacewalk will be to replace a broken camera.

Images provided by the ISS showed that the Discovery’s left wing was damaged during lift-off. The ISS crew used a camera on the station’s robotic arm to inspect the reinforced carbon-carbon panels 19-21 on the wing after sensors registered a minor disturbance. Engineers will now analyse the captured imagery.

NASA introduced extra safety procedures last year after damage to the left wing caused the shuttle Columbia to tear apart while entering the earth’s atmosphere.