If anyone wants to make a claim this Friday morning to being the loneliest person in the universe, they might need to get in line behind astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Norishige Kanai. The pair have stepped outside the relatively friendly, crowded confines of the International Space Station to go for a walk, with nothing but their spacesuits between them and the infinity of the cosmos.
Not that either astronaut figures to spend too much time musing on their place in the universe. This spacewalk, the 208th from the ISS, is about as straightforward as a spacewalk can be, with the astronauts performing routine repair work. But considering the inherent marvel of it all, NASA is live-streaming the entire 6.5-hour operation, which began at around 7:10 a.m. Eastern.
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Watch below to see two humans working in space, as well as everything else that happens both back inside the ISS and down on the ground to make it possible. If you’re looking to tell the two men apart, Vande Hei’s spacesuit has red stripes, while Kanai doesn’t.
The NASA and JAXA astronauts are moving two Latching End Effectors — fancy term for hands, basically — from a Canadian robotic arm. One will be stored as a spare part, while the other will be taken back to Earth and given more extensive refurbishment before being sent back up as another spare.
In case 6.5 hours is what you would consider a lot of time to commit to watching a spacewalk — which, we don’t really get, but sure — the International Space Station’s Twitter feed has posted some highlights.
This is the first time Kanai has walked in space, though Vande Hei is a spacewalk veteran at this point. This is his fourth trip outside ISS, having most recently stepped out earlier this year on January 23. Before Friday’s spacewalk, he had logged 20 hours and 45 minutes in the vacuum of space, meaning this excursion is set to bring him to more than a total day spent going on the most solitary walk in human history — even if there is another astronaut there as well.