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Watch a NASA astronaut jettison part of the ISS into space

NASA astronaut Victor Glover embarked on his very first spacewalk on Wednesday, successfully completing all the required tasks with colleague Mike Hopkins at the International Space Station (ISS) during the nearly seven-hour outing.

Viewers of the livestreamed event were treated to the rare sight of an astronaut jettisoning a decommissioned part of the ISS into space.

Footage (below) posted later on Twitter shows Glover performing a short countdown before launching a science antenna cover into space, gently pushing it away from the ISS into an orbit that ensures the object will soon burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

.@AstroVicGlover jettisons a science antenna cover into space since it is no longer needed. It will eventually enter Earth's atmosphere and burn up safely. #AskNASA |

— International Space Station (@Space_Station) January 27, 2021

Writing in Air & Space last year about the process of jettisoning objects, veteran NASA engineer Mike Engle explained how launching decommissioned parts from the space station can be a risky process, a fact that prompted him to help create an official ISS Jettison Policy to ensure that such activities are carried out safely.

“Jettisoning trash from a spacecraft is no mere stroll to a dumpster,” Engle wrote. “First and foremost, you have to make sure that whatever you throw away doesn’t come back and hit you — a frightening possibility in the weird realm of orbital mechanics.”

The engineer added, “Simple trigonometry led to the conclusion 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” to send the part safely on its way.

Engle’s explanation reveals why Glover is so careful as he nudges the science antenna cover away from the space station.

Glover and Hopkins carried out a number of other tasks during Wednesday’s extravehicular activity, as spacewalks are officially known. These included the installation of  Ka-band antenna on the outside of the European Space Agency’s Columbus module, enabling an independent, high-bandwidth communication link to European ground stations, as well as some preparatory work for upcoming power system upgrades.

While this was Glover’s first spacewalk, Hopkins was embarking on his third after completing two others during his first six-month stay aboard the ISS between 2013 and 2014.

Another spacewalk involving Hopkins and Glover will take place on Monday, February 1. Here’s how you can watch it live.

You can also enjoy our collection of stunning spacewalk images captured since NASA’s very first extravehicular activity 56 years ago.

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Trevor Mogg
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