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Watch a cosmonaut hurl a piece of ISS garbage into the abyss

Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin embarked on a spacewalk at the International Space Station (ISS) at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday to relocate an experiment airlock from the Rassvet module to the Nauka science module.

NASA live-streamed the spacewalk and also posted footage on the ISS Twitter account.

One notable clip (below) shows Prokopyev launching a 5-kilogram piece of redundant hardware into the abyss. The good news is that the garbage won’t become yet another piece of hazardous space junk as it’s destined to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Spacewalker Sergey Prokopyev jettisons a 5-kilogram bundle of obsolete hardware into the vacuum of space to harmlessly burn up in the Earth's atmosphere. Watch now…

— International Space Station (@Space_Station) May 4, 2023

A commentator at Mission Control can be heard comparing the garbage to a star as it drifts slowly away from the orbital outpost about 250 miles above Earth.

Jettisoning an object from the space station is actually a delicate process as doing it incorrectly could send it on the wrong path and even cause it to crash into the ISS, which is orbiting Earth at a speed of around 17,500 mph.

Veteran NASA engineer Mike Engle once explained how it’s done, describing it as “no mere stroll to a dumpster.”

Engle said that having a discarded object come back and hit you was “a frightening possibility in the weird realm of orbital mechanics.”

Calculations suggest that pushing an object away “at two inches per second within a 30-degree cone centered on a line directly opposite the direction that the ISS was traveling as it orbited the Earth would be enough” for safe disposal, Engle said.

Although Prokopyev appeared to throw his piece away at a speed greater than two inches per second, it nevertheless seemed to drift safely away from the station as it headed for entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

This was the fifth spacewalk in Prokopyev’s career, and the third for Petelin. It was also the fifth spacewalk at the ISS this year and the 262nd for space station assembly, maintenance, and upgrades.

The next spacewalk at the ISS is scheduled for Friday, May 12.

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Trevor Mogg
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