Russian cosmonauts whose first attempt to install two high-tech cameras outside the International Space Station was thwarted by cabling issues last month made a second spacewalk Monday to finish the job – with mixed results. The high-resolution video camera began successfully transmitting back to ground control, but the medium-resolution still camera did not send good data to Earth, officials said.
Commander Oleg Kotov and flight engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy set a record on Dec. 27 for longest Russian spacewalk – eight hours and seven minutes – when they first attempted to install the two cameras. The cosmonauts installed the two cameras ahead of schedule but had to backtrack when they failed to return any telemetry.
The duo uninstalled the cameras during that post-Christmas spacewalk and the space station team tried troubleshooting the problem, finding issues with internal and external cabling. The two astronauts stepped into space to give it another go Monday.
The pair of cameras were built by UrtheCast (pronounced Earth cast), a private company based in Vancouver, Canada. UrtheCast’s high-resolution camera would be able to take video footage of activities on Earth, as it orbits the planet about every 90 minutes.
"Education, environmental awareness and the human perspective will all change when our cameras go live," says the narrator over this UrtheCast video.
The cameras could send back images of public demonstrations, document environmental change or allow companies to monitor hard-to-reach equipment from 250 miles above the Earth’s surface, officials said.
"We’ll be putting pictures out online that frankly no one’s ever seen before," UrtheCast Chief Executive Scott Larson said in a TV interview.
The Russian team successfully installed the high-resolution camera but the medium-resolution camera failed to send data back. UrtheCast and the Russian Space Agency will continue investigating the problem to see whether they can fix it from within the space station.
The third time will not be the charm; there are no future walks scheduled to deal with the medium-resolution camera, officials said. The astronauts had been forced to put off other tasks scheduled for their last, ultra-long spacewalk to deal with the cameras; they spent the rest of Monday’s spacewalk wrapping up those chores.
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