Samantha Cristoforetti, Italian astronaut for the European Space Agency, and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev entered the vacuum of space in their puffy white suits just before 11 a.m. ET and are expected to spend about seven hours in the works to install a 36-foot-long robotic arm on one of the space station modules. .
Spacewalks are a routine endeavor on the International Space Station, but they usually involve two Americans or two Europeans, an American and a European, or two Russians working together. The last time a European cosmonaut and a Russian cosmonaut left the International Space Station together in Russian-made Orlan spacesuits was in April 1999, according to NASA. (An American and a Russian also conducted a joint spacewalk in 2009.)
Thursday’s spacewalk is the first for Christoforiti and the sixth for Artemyev. Their joint venture comes as tensions on the ground between Russia and the United States and its allies are at a peak amid the Ukraine war, despite NASA repeatedly saying the conflict has not affected cooperation in space.
Artemyev and Christoforiti began their spacewalk Thursday by deploying “ten nanosatellites designed to collect radioelectronics data.” Since the space station is already moving at orbital speeds, deploying satellites is as easy as tossing them in one direction or another.
It is the sixth spacewalk to be performed on the International Space Station so far in 2022 and the spacewalk 251 overall. Astronauts routinely leave the station to maintain its exterior, install new instruments, or conduct science experiments.