Imagine all that separates you from life and certain death is a rope tied to your ankle. That’s literally the situation at hand when an astronaut goes on a spacewalk.
In this image, you see European Space Agency’s (ESA) Thomas Pesquet on his first spacewalk (formerly known as an extravehicular activity, or EVA). He and NASA’s Shane Kimbrough were on a mission to replace old hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion ones on the International Space Station earlier this month.
“I was holding on carefully to the International Space Station, I grew attached to it,” Pesquet said.
To stop Pesquet and other space walkers from drifting off into the universe, ISS technicians require that astronauts are connected to two different tethers that are hooked to the station — one to the belt, and one to the ankle. To get back to the entrance they have to follow their tethers straight back.
If something were to have happened to Pesquet’s tethers, his only safeguard against the dark abyss would have been a jetpack called the SAFER, which can fire nitrogen thrusters and propel the astronaut in a given direction. SAFER has never had to be used before — and in an ideal world, we’ll never have to worry about an astronaut ever needing it.
The walk was successful and the astronauts went above and beyond completing some additional tasks like retrieving a failed camera, moving handrails for future walks, and taking pictures of exterior facilities.
Pesquet and Kimbrough are now safe and sound aboard the ISS until February. In the meantime, they are taking some incredible shots of our blue planet.