Samantha Cristoforetti, Italian astronaut of the European Space Agency, and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev stepped into the vacuum of space in their puffy white spacesuits before 11 a.m. ET, and they are expected to spend about seven hours installing a 36-foot long robotic arm on one from space station modules.
Spacewalks are common on the ISS, but they usually involve two Americans or Europeans, an American and a European, or two Russians working together. According to NASA, the last time a European astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut left the ISS together in Russian Orlan spacesuits was in April 1999. (An American and a Russian also performed a joint spacewalk in 2009.)
Thursday’s spacewalk is Cristoforetti’s first and Artemyev’s sixth. Their joint venture came as tensions on Earth between Russia, the United States and their allies came to a head amid the war in Ukraine, even though NASA has repeatedly said the conflict has not affected cooperation in space.
Also on Thursday, Artemyev and Cristoforetti will launch “ten nanosatellites designed to collect electronics data” and install a “telescopic boom” – a kind of crane-like structure – that will help in future spacewalks.
The spacewalk is the sixth to be carried out on the ISS in 2022, and the 251st overall. Astronauts regularly leave the station to maintain its appearance, install new equipment, or conduct scientific experiments.