NC State grad makes successful spacewalk to upgrade ISS batteries

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Former N.C. State student Kristina Koch — who is now an astronaut – took a walk on Friday from the International Space Station.

Koch’s nearly 7-hour spacewalk involved upgrading the space station’s power storage capacity. 

Originally, she was to be accompanied by fellow astronaut Anne McClain. This would have been the first all-female spacewalk in history but it didn’t happen.

Koch’s former advisor at N.C. State, Professor Stephen Reynolds said he understands.

“It’s a little of a disappointment, but I don’t think Tina is worried at all, she’s got a job to do and she’ll do a great job. It’s so much fun for us watching our former student do these amazing things,” Reynolds said.

The issue that kept both women from a dual spacewalk was a sizing problem.

It was discovered that both female astronauts wear a size medium space suit, and there was only one medium size in working order; so, Anne McClain, who used the medium space suit in a spacewalk last week, was replaced on this spacewalk by astronaut Nick Hague who wears a size large. 

Astronauts always do spacewalks in pairs. 

“NASA is not about to take chances with anybody’s life, and the idea that the originally planned suit that Anne was going to wear might not be optimal, if there was any hint of that, they would much rather lose the milestone,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds knows a spacewalk isn’t like a stroll down the street.

“That is one of the most dangerous things that you can do. Basically, the suit is a whole little spacecraft on it’s own.  Everything has got to work right, you’ve got to be out there exerting yourself for a very long time.”

 Even though the space station has solar panels, as it orbits the earth, it is away from the sun half the time; so, the space station needs a lot of backup power, which is what Koch worked on Friday.

“Technology in space runs five to ten years behind technology on Earth, because you want to make absolutely certain and you don’t want to test something in space. So, what’s happening now is lithium ion batteries, which have been used on earth a long time, are now being upgraded on the space station,” Reynolds said.

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