"Two NASA astronauts switched their spacesuits to battery power this morning at 8:05 a.m. EDT aboard the International Space Station to begin a spacewalk planned to last about 6.5 hours", NASA announced.
Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik will be leading all three missions, which will focus on repairs to the robotic arm, Canadarm2.
This came as no surprise, however, as the two LEEs on Canadarm2 have already exceeded their life expectancy, said Tim Braithwaite, the ISS program liaison for the Canadian Space Agency.
The trio of spacewalks will be Bresnik's third, fourth and fifth, while Vande Hei will experience his first two spacewalks.
"It's more gorgeous and heavenly than I saw when I was out here eight years ago", Bresnik, a spacewalk veteran, marveled as he floated out of the airlock 250 miles above Africa.
"The LEE is the mechanism, the set of mechanisms, that does all the heavy lifting, it does all the mechanical attachment when the arm walks end over end and establishes a new base point, when it picks up our robot DEXTRE to go do station maintenance or when it catches and releases free-flying cargo vehicles", said Tim Braithwaite, the Canadian Space Agency's station liaison. As extravehicular crewmember 1 (EV 1), Bresnik gets to wear the suit with red stripes on it, while Vande Hei (EV 2) will wear a plain white suit. A total of three such spacewalks have been scheduled for the month of October, of which the first will commence on Thursday, informed NASA.
The station has a spare LEE stored outside the ISS, which the astronauts retrieved to make the fix.
Bresnik will lead all three of the scheduled spacewalks.
They replaced one of two Latching End Effectors (LEE) which had lost the ability to grip effectively, said the U.S. space agency.
Two more walks are scheduled, one on October 10 and the other this month on October 18.