NASA’s Indian-American astronaut Raja Chari conducts first spacewalk


Indian-American astronaut Raja Chari, who arrived on the Space Station last year will walk out of the safety of the airlock into the vacuum of space to conduct his first spacewalk. He will be joined by Flight Engineers Kayla Barron as they upgrade the International Space Station, whose services have been extended till 2030.

The two astronauts will remain in the vacuum of space for nearly 6.5 hours on Tuesday as they prepare the Space Station for upgrades to the solar panels that power it up. Nasa said that the duo will exit Quest, then translate over to the Starboard-4 truss structure and install modification kits that will ready the space station for its third roll-out solar array.

Both Chari and Barron had been preparing for the spacewalk for over a week and had readied their spacesuits and placed their spacewalk tools inside Quest. The green signal was given by Nasa after the final procedures review and a conference with specialists on the ground.

Nasa has planned for the installation of six ISS Roll-Out Solar Arrays (iROSA) that will soak up the energy of the Sun to provide electrical power for the numerous research and science investigations conducted every day. The new panels will give the aging station a much-needed electrical boost, as demand for experiments and space tourists grows. The new panels will increase the station’s total available power from 160 kilowatts to a maximum of 215 kilowatts.

While Chari and Barron will be outside the Space Station, astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Matthias Maurer will help the spacewalkers in and out of their suits and monitor and guide them during the exterior maintenance job. While it is the maiden spacewalk for Chari, it will be the second for Barron.

Astronaut Raja Chari was selected as the commander of the Crew-3 mission to the International Space Station in 2020 and launched to the flying outpost a year later. A colonel in the US Air Force, Chari was selected to be an astronaut in 2017. Chari has accumulated more than 2,500 hours of flight time in his career. He was also selected as a member of the Artemis Team and is eligible for assignment to a future lunar mission.

His father, Srinivas Chari, left for the US from Hyderabad at a young age for an engineering degree.

The spacewalk comes amid ongoing tension between the US, Europe, and Russia over Ukraine that has sparred into space cooperation with all of them imposing sanctions against each other on the ground. Nasa will conduct the second walk of the month on March 23, where astronauts will conduct repairing and maintenance work on the ISS.