Spacewalking like 'giving birth to yourself'
Russian cosmonauts set out on a spacewalk Thursday outside the orbiting international space station.
February 16th, 2012
05:14 PM ET

Spacewalking like 'giving birth to yourself'

Editor's note: Light Years guest blogger Kate Arkless Gray studied genetics at Cambridge, before embracing a career as a radio producer and broadcast journalist. She enjoys travel, photography and adventure. She writes the blog and can be found on Twitter @SpaceKate.

I'm grinning from ear to ear.

As I type this, cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Oleg Konenenko are engaged in a Russian spacewalk, whilst orbiting the Earth at 17,500 mph.

Cameras on the international space station, and also mounted on the cosmonauts' helmets, are showing me their every move.

It's fascinating.

A translator relays the conversation between the spacewalkers and mission control in Korolev, Russia.

During this spacewalk the pair were due to move a 46-foot (14 meter) crane from one part of the space station to another and install some shields to protect the station from space debris.

After grappling with the crane they ran out of time for installation of the shields and instead concentrated on taking some swab samples of surface residue from the Zvezda service module. The hope is to study the residue to get a better idea of the space station's lifespan.

The reason I'm smiling continuously throughout this six-hour EVA (extra-vehicular activity) is that I had the pleasure of meeting and befriending Anton Shkaplerov before he launched into space.

The author with Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov.

Today I witnessed Shkaplerov take his first steps outside of the space station and I feel full of excitement. Watching him work in space is breathtaking, so what must it be like for him on his first spacewalk?

I asked Canadian astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield to describe what it's like to pass through the ISS hatch and out into space.“Pulling yourself out into the void is bizarre” he said, “like deliberately giving birth to yourself."

"It is hard to concentrate on the vital work with the world pouring by next to you” he explained. "Africa going by gave me vertigo, which made me laugh."

I continue watching the live video stream from the cosmonauts' helmet cameras, watching the world pass below them. "To be alone, weightless, between the brilliant colors and textures of Earth and the eternal velvet blackness of space is a magnificent human experience," says Hadfield.

I can only imagine what that must be like, but I feel privileged to have been able to join Anton and Oleg on their spacewalk today. In spirit, at least!

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Filed under: In Space • News • People in Orbit
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. w l jones

    He is so right one have no sense of feeling or sensation in space while everything past by so slowery and looking up where there isn^t a sky but total darkness.

    February 17, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  2. Raymond

    Sounds extremely painful.

    February 17, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • mewsoftheshoes

      ...everywhere you go, there you are!

      February 18, 2012 at 5:29 am |
    • Shona

      Before we pack for the Moon or Mars we better peerfct our equipment and techniques in low earth orbit. Golly gee, it sure would be nice to a have space shuttle to bring up replacement parts and spares encases something breaks. Opps, we just moth balled the whole fleet and cancelled its replacement. Maybe the astronaughts can Magyver some thing up all a Soyuz.

      September 13, 2012 at 1:02 am |
  3. mewsoftheshoes

    Isn't that lovely.

    February 17, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  4. Vash

    This was a great post. I appreciate the fact you spent the time to help us see the space walk through your words.

    February 17, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  5. 4commonsensenow

    I watched and listened to it for about an hour. I was amazed, cause it was almost like a couple of labors fighting up there on tv about how to do Not Nasa quailty that day.

    February 17, 2012 at 7:57 am |
  6. Tricia

    Such an amazing piece of writing. Truly. I could see it all through your words. Not a space buff, but this made me want to float suspended between earth and space as well. They are having an amazing experience–because of you I feel that connection also.

    Thanks for being brilliant. People just don't say that enough anymore... I thought you should hear it.

    February 17, 2012 at 12:22 am |
    • SpaceKate

      Thanks Tricia – so kind of you to say. I really appreciate that. Have you taken a moment to watch the space station go over your house? There are several websites you can look up that will tell you when there is a bright pass. No binoculars needed – just a nice clear sky! 🙂 Kate

      February 21, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  7. Lila

    This is pretty funny :"Africa going by gave me vertigo." It must be hard to concentrate and not just stare. Hope in the future you can include video from the actual walk, that would be interesting especially with the earth in the background.

    February 16, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • SB

      If you search you can find many fantastic videos taken from the ISS. One of my favorites shows the Earth during a period of strong aurora activity.

      February 16, 2012 at 8:44 pm |


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