Let's Talk About: Risky spacewalk

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One of the most exciting and risky tasks that astronauts and cosmonauts will perform during their stay aboard the International Space Station is a spacewalk, or EVA. When they open the hatch and exit the airlock, spacewalkers can face up to six hours of hard strenuous work in the most dangerous and unforgiving environment in which anyone can ever work.

After leaving the airlock, the spacewalkers will tether themselves to the station with thin cables so they don't float away. As they move about the station's exterior, they will look for yellow painted rails and handholds to grasp.

Most of the work spacewalkers perform in space is with their hands. Because the spacesuit is pressurized, opening and closing the gloves is very strenuous. Imagine how your hands would feel if you squeezed a tennis ball for six hours. That's how astronauts' hands feel at the end of a work shift.

While working in space, spacewalkers take advantage of the fact that objects in space have no apparent weight. As long as the spacewalkers have a stable platform to work from, they can position objects with ease. If they are not stabilized, a simple task such as turning a nut with a wrench can become difficult.

Astronauts and cosmonauts have a large collection of tools to use during their assembly or repair duties. Space tools have been developed to follow special guidelines. Tools must be easy to grip with the astronaut's heavy gloves. They must be safe to use and reliable under temperature extremes. Many of the tools found in a toolbox on Earth are used in space, but they are modified to make them easier and safer to use in space.

You can become an astronaut in training and experience what it would be like to live and work in zero gravity when Carnegie Science Center's new SpacePlace exhibit opens on Nov. 16.



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