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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, October 12, 2019 1:00 am

Astronauts replacing space station batteries

Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Astronauts replaced oversized batteries outside the International Space Station on Friday, as news broke of the death of the world's first spacewalker.

NASA interrupted live TV coverage of its second spacewalk this week to announce Alexei Leonov's death at age 85. Leonov was the first human to walk in space.

Five days after their first spacewalk, American astronauts Andrew Morgan and Christina Koch swiftly continued swapping decade-old batteries in the station's solar power network with new and improved lithium-ion versions. These new batteries are so powerful only one is needed for every two of the hydrogen-nickel units.

By the midway point of Friday's excursion, Morgan and Koch had finished installing three batteries 260 miles up. Given the hefty battery size – about half a refrigerator with a mass of 400 pounds – the astronauts had to take turns holding each unit as they moved along the station's sprawling framework. With that successfully behind them, they got a jump on next week's spacewalk.

It was the second of five spacewalks planned this month to install six batteries that arrived via a Japanese supply ship two weeks ago. Morgan and Koch began the outdoor work Sunday. Morgan will be accompanied Wednesday by NASA's Jessica Meir, the other woman on board. Morgan has been aboard the space station since July. Koch is two-thirds of the way into what will be the longest single spaceflight by a woman, 300-plus days.

Friday marked the 35th anniversary of the first spacewalk by an American woman, Kathryn Sullivan.

Since Leonov's feat, there have been 27 spacewalkers including 14 women.