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NASA conducts another all-female spacewalk for battery work

In this image taken from NASA video NASA astronaut Jessica Meir works to finish upgrading the International Space Station's power grid, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. NASA is in the midst of replacing decades-old nickel-hydrogen batteries outside the sprawling space station with more powerful, longer-lasting lithium-ion batteries. The batteries are part of the station's solar power network, keeping everything running when the outpost is on the night side of Earth. It was the second pairing of Meir and Christina Koch outside the orbiting lab. (NASA via AP)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Two NASA astronauts ventured out Wednesday on a second all-female spacewalk to finish upgrades to the International Space Station’s power grid.

It was the second pairing of Jessica Meir and Christina Koch outside the orbiting lab. Last October, they teamed up for the world’s first spacewalk by two women.

“Beautiful view out here,” Meir said as their latest spacewalk got under way.

NASA is in the midst of replacing decades-old nickel-hydrogen batteries outside the sprawling space station with more powerful, longer-lasting lithium-ion batteries. The batteries are part of the station’s solar power network, keeping everything running when the outpost is on the night side of Earth.

Koch also went out with a male colleague twice last October to install three new batteries. But a charging unit then failed, prompting the need for unexpected repairs by Koch and Meir. Meanwhile, the rest of the critical battery installations were put on hold while engineers figured out why the charger failed so soon after new batteries went in.

Engineers now believe the charger got too cold in the extreme temperatures of space. The solution: exposing the chargers to the sun as much as possible during the battery work.

Mission Control expects Meir and Koch to replace three more of the old batteries, with the operation wrapping up during a third all-female spacewalk on Monday. That would make a total of five spacewalks for this latest series of battery work.

Koch is just three weeks away from ending an 11-month space mission, the longest ever by a woman. She’s been living 250 miles (400 kilometres) above Earth since last March. Meir arrived at the space station in September.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press