A spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS) by a Russian cosmonaut had to be ended early after a battery power issue on his spacesuit.
Despite the early ending, cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev still managed to complete the installation of two cameras on the European robotic arm during the spacewalk. Soon after, his spacesuit started showing abnormal battery readings.
The arm is affixed to Russia’s Nauka research module and will be used to remotely move equipment outside of the station.
It was roughly two hours into a six-hour spacewalk when voltage levels in his spacesuit’s battery began to unexpectedly drop.
Mission Control-Moscow instructed him to return to the Poisk airlock to connect to the space station’s power supply.
Cosmonaut Sergey Korsakov later placed the European robotic arm in a safe configuration from inside the station.
While Russia has been a key part of the history of the ISS since its creation, the country announced in July that it would withdraw from the project after 2024 following ramping tensions with Europe and the US in the wake of the war in Ukraine.
Following China’s example, the country plans to build its own orbital outpost once its ISS commitments have been fulfilled.
The announcement has thrown into question the future of the 24-year-old space station, with experts saying it would be extremely difficult, and even a “nightmare”, to maintain the orbiting post without Russia’s involvement.
But former Nasa astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent 340 continuous days aboard the ISS in 2015 and 2016, has expressed some doubt on Russia’s statement.
“I believe Russia will stay as long as they can afford to as without ISS they have no human spaceflight programme,” he said, adding that the design of the station makes it difficult but not impossible for the remaining nations to operate it should Russia withdraw.
Earlier this year, Nasa announced a planned date of January 2031 to de-orbit the ISS and direct any remnants into a remote area of the South Pacific Ocean.