Challenging spacewalks for Luca


ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano who arrived at the International Space Station in July will soon play a leading role in a highly
complex series of spacewalks He will repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer or AMS-02 a particle physics experiment mounted to the outside of the Space Station Three of its four cooling pumps now need replacing Making these repairs by extra-vehicular activity, or EVA will be extremely difficult It’s a combination of things that makes this
EVA so challenging You have certainly an access problem AMS is in a remote area without handles or locations to hold onto because it was not made to be repaired EVA AMS was carried to the Space Station on the final flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour in May 2011 and installed by ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori using the shuttle’s robotic arm As the most sophisticated particle detector ever sent into space AMS allows scientists to find dark matter To date it has detected over 100 billion cosmic particles greatly enhancing our knowledge of the universe When the decision was made to extend the instrument’s
life a series of specialised tools and novel spacewalk
techniques had to be developed At the Johnson Space Centre in Houston experienced spacewalker Luca Parmitano played a key role in this process I’ve been lucky enough to have been part of
the development team from the beginning initially just as a consultant and then actually getting closer to the team in using me as a test subject for some of the tools and they’ve been incredibly receptive to our
suggestions and responding to our ideas, it’s been exciting Working inside a spacesuit in microgravity poses many challenges Luca and his NASA colleague Andrew Morgan trained on specialised equipment to recreate working conditions in orbit such as the ARGOS system which effectively removes gravitational force to create a simulated EVA environment Numerous underwater sessions in NASA’s Neutral
Buoyancy Lab gave Luca and Andrew a working knowledge of
the Space Station’s exterior rehearsing fully-suited operations on a mock-up of AMS This level of training ensured that by the time of launch both astronauts were ready to push the limits
of what is possible in orbit We’re going to perform what could be considered open heart surgery on this amazing experiment We’re going to cut tubes and then fuse them with other tubes that we’re going to bring from Earth and install a completely new pump to help the refrigeration work keeping the
magnet cold so that the Alpha-Magnetic Spectrometer can work Drawing on his extensive training and experience lead spacewalker Luca will begin work with Andrew on this most challenging
series of spacewalks continuing until the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer
is fully restored allowing it to explore our universe for many more years to come

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