Sunita Williams Helps Fix ISS With Toothbrush, Busts Women’s Spacewalk Record
by Zoe Chevat | 11:07 am, September 6th, 2012
There is nothing that isn’t awesome in that headline, fellow people of the future.
This morning’s space news oddity proves that you needn’t know where your towel is at, as long as you can find your toothbrush. According to MSNBC, an astronaut walkabout team consisting of NASA’s Sunita Williams and Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide were recently charged with clearing debris from a faulty bolt housing, one that prevented them from properly installing a main busing switch. The International Space Station is powered by four of these 220 lb switches – also known as MBSUs – which relay solar power from collection arrays around the complex. A failed attempt last week to remove the former MSBU from the slot and install a spare had left two of the Station’s eight panels unable to relay power, a situation that astronaut Jack Fischer, speaking from Mission Control in Houston, compared to, “living on the set of ‘Apollo 13′.”
Sounds dramatic, sure, but remember that swapping out a busing switch for the International Space Station is a little more complicated than popping out of your car to change a tire.
After trying repeatedly to drive in a key bolt that would secure the MBSU to the station’s truss, or main backbone, Williams and Hoshide had been forced to secure the unit to the exterior and return inside for planning. That unlucky repair job alone was impressive; at 8 hours and 17 minutes, it was the third-longest spacewalk in history and the longest one for a space station crew.
But yesterday, the duo was back, and this time they meant business. Armed with ingenious devices fashioned from existing supplies, including a spare toothbrush, they successfully managed clear the bolt housing and get the MBSU on over a period of 6 hours and 28 minutes. In that time, they also removed and replaced a malfunctioning camera from the Canadarm 2 robotic arm. As well as being a tremendous relief for NASA and their international allies, this victorious jaunt in the black left Williams as the record holder for the most time working in the vacuum of space by a female astronaut. The previous record-holder was Peggy Whitson, former chief of NASA’s Astronaut Office, and veteran of many spaceflights.
Congratulations to Williams, and to NASA and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) for their creative quick-thinking. As co-toothbrush-wielder Hoshide is heard to have said over comms, “Get ‘er done.” Indeed sir. Indeed.