Spacewalkers Battle Camera Glitch, Pull Back For Another Day

Customers eager to watch live, high-definition images of Earth may have to wait a bit longer. Two Russian spacewalkers were unable to get two UrtheCast cameras to function despite spending eight hours and seven minutes outside yesterday (Dec. 27) — the longest spacewalk in Russian history.

The cause of the problem is not known. Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy followed all the steps as instructed, but controllers did not see telemetry or data flowing from the cameras as expected. The spacewalkers tried unplugging and replugging cables and other steps to fix the problem, but were eventually told to take some pictures of the equipment and then bring the cameras back inside for more analysis.

“So it appears we have seen an unsuccessful attempt at bringing those two cameras to life,”said Rob Navias, NASA’s Mission Control commentator, in live remarks published on CBS.

“The exact cause of the problem is not known at this point. The Russian flight control team will spend some time, obviously, analyzing the data and trying to understand from the analysis of these photographs whether or not the problem lies in the electrical connectors themselves or in the cameras, which of course would be a more significant issue.”

In remarks on Twitter, UrtheCast said it was preparing an official statement to release. ” ‘Tis the nature of space tech,” the British Columbia-based company said in response to a comment talking about the challenges of doing high-tech work in space. The company also made a comment to Reuters saying there was a problem with camera connectivity.

NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins during a spacewalk Dec. 24, 2013 to replace a malfunctioning ammonia pump on the International Space Station. He and fellow Expedition 38 astronaut Rick Mastracchio took two spacewalks to perform the repair job. Credit: NASA

UrtheCast plans to use the two cameras to broadcast live views of the Earth to paying customers (particularly government and private agencies), while also serving as an educational platform for young students. The company is working directly with Russian aerospace giant RSC Energia and has no agreement with NASA for the work, according to this past Universe Today report.

The longest spacewalk in history took place on March 11, 2001 and took eight hours, 56 minutes. NASA astronauts Jim Voss and Susan Helms were doing work on the International Space Station during the record-setting jaunt.

This was the third spacewalk in a week on station. The other two were performed by Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins, who replaced an ammonia pump needed to keep one of the station’s two cooling loops functioning. Experiments are gradually coming back online, NASA said, after the equipment spent two weeks in a forced shutdown.

Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

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