French astronaut Thomas Pesquet floated into space on his first-ever spacewalk Friday, on a mission to help upgrade the power system outside the International Space Station with new, refrigerator-sized lithium-ion batteries.
Wearing a white spacesuit with the French flag emblazoned on one shoulder, Pesquet and American astronaut Shane Kimbrough switched on their spacesuits' internal battery power to mark the official start of the spacewalk at 6:22 am (1122 GMT), more than a half hour earlier than scheduled.
“This is Pesquet's first foray into the vacuum of space,” a NASA commentator said as a live broadcast from the US space agency showed Pesquet's booted feet dangling out of the airlock as he made his way outside.
The men's goal for the six-and-a-half hour spacewalk is to connect adapter plates for three modern lithium-ion batteries.
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First outing for Pesquet
Pesquet, 38, is the fourth French astronaut to perform a spacewalk, and the 11th European.
He posted pictures of the space station on Facebook Thursday, showing the location of the batteries and the Quest airlock, which is the entry and exit portal for spacewalkers.
“We will get a closer look of the outside of the space station,” he wrote.
“Peggy says it is even more beautiful when you are out there than looking through the windows.”
The spacewalk was the 197th for maintenance and assembly at the orbiting outpost, a global science collaboration of more than a dozen nations including Russia, the United States and Japan.