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

— 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.

Editors' Recommendations

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)…
NASA is seeking help to crash the space station at the end of its life
The International Space Station.

The International Space Station (ISS) is set to be decommissioned in 2031, at which point it will have spent three decades orbiting Earth.

But NASA doesn’t want to leave the 356-foot-long (109-meter) facility drifting in orbit as it would add to the growing amount of hazardous space junk already in low-Earth orbit and would risk creating even more if it collided with another object.

Read more
Chocolate mousse in space is more important than you think
Astronaut Andreas Mogensen with his chocolate mousse aboard the space station.

Astronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS) keep a busy schedule during their six-month stints in orbit. Most of their time is taken up with carrying out scientific research in the unique microgravity conditions that the facility provides, while the occasional spacewalk takes care of upgrades and general maintenance.

The research programs include learning about the best way to grow crops off-Earth and aboard the relatively cramped conditions of the orbital facility, an especially important task if we’re ever to send astronauts on long-duration missions to a lunar base or even to Mars.

Read more
NASA’s Frank Rubio has just done something very unusual in space
Frank Rubio aboard the space station.

Frank Rubio aboard the space station. NASA

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio marked one whole year in space on Thursday.

Read more