Skip to main content

This astronaut dance is more than a simple space boogie

It may look like a space-based disco but this mellow astronaut “dance” is actually an important pre-spacewalk procedure.

Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency and NASA’s Shane Kimbrough conducted their latest spacewalk aboard the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday, June 25, in which they installed the second of six new solar arrays as part of ongoing work to upgrade the station’s power system.

But before leaving the interior of the ISS, Pesquet and Kimbrough appeared to perform a little dance (below) while fully kitted out in their spacesuits.

In a Facebook post on Friday, Pesquet jokingly described the sequence as a “spacewalk dance” before offering a more complete explanation of the brief boogie.

“We were not really dancing but purging our bodies of nitrogen,” the French astronaut said. “We breathe pure oxygen and slowly all the nitrogen in our bodies is replaced by oxygen, which is safer when going from high pressure (Space Station) to low pressure (spacesuit). Mild exercise makes us breathe more oxygen and gets rid of the nitrogen quicker.”

Pesquet added: “Also, it is fun to dance.”

Spacewalk dance! Happy to have finished #spacewalk season for the moment with success. Deserves a little dance. 😊 We were not really dancing though, but purging our bodies of nitrogen! 🕺 #MissionAlpha https://t.co/AJ7YPYugPD pic.twitter.com/Ab6pFSVeKB

— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) June 26, 2021

Elaborating on the procedure, NASA explains on its website that astronauts climb into their spacesuits several hours before a spacewalk is due to begin, with the suits pressurized and filled with pure oxygen.

Inside their spacesuits, the astronauts breathe the oxygen to rid their bodies of nitrogen that could lead to the formation of gas bubbles in their bloodstream and tissues when they exit the orbiting outpost.

“These gas bubbles can cause astronauts to feel pain in their shoulders, elbows, wrists, and knees. This pain is called getting ‘the bends’ because it affects the places where the body bends,” NASA said, adding, “Scuba divers can also get the bends.”

An alternative way for an astronaut to expel nitrogen is to spend a period of time in one of the space station’s airlocks, the compartment located between the main part of the ISS and space. The cabin pressure is then reduced in the airlock, enabling astronauts to safely rid their bodies of nitrogen prior to exiting the station.

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Starliner astronauts give first tour of the docked spacecraft
Boeing's Starliner capsule docked at the ISS.

NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore have given space fans a tour of Boeing’s Starliner capsule, which is currently docked at the International Space Station (ISS).

The pair traveled to the ISS aboard the Starliner in the spacecraft’s first crewed flight, which launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida atop a ULA Atlas V rocket on Wednesday. The vehicle docked with the orbital outpost the following day.

Read more
Junk from the ISS fell on a house in the U.S., NASA confirms
The International Space Station.

A regular stanchion (left) and the one recovered from the NASA flight support equipment used to mount International Space Station batteries on a cargo pallet. The recovered stanchion survived reentry through Earth’s atmosphere on March 8, 2024, and impacted a home in Florida. NASA

When Alejandro Otero’s son called him on March 8 to say that something had crashed through the roof of their home, he initially thought it might have been a meteorite.

Read more
What kind of view will ISS astronauts get of the solar eclipse?
A total solar eclipse.

NASA Astronauts Talk about the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse

In case you haven’t heard, a total solar eclipse is about to happen.

Read more