The two Russians on the Mir head into open space on Wednesday, the first of five such missions in April aimed at repairing the exterior of the 12-year-old space station.
Talgat Musabayev and Nikolai Budarin will start today’s spacewalk by opening the stubborn lock on Mir’s exit hatch. They tried and failed to open the hatch March 3, breaking three wrenches in the process and forcing postponement of that spacewalk.
A new set of wrenches arrived recently via a cargo ship, and the cosmonauts have been practicing on the lock to make sure it will open easily this time around.
Wednesday is April Fool’s Day, which is marked by pranks throughout Russia, but Mission Control spokeswoman Vera Medvedkova said, the “jokes will probably come after the crew completes the mission.”
Once outside the Mir, Musabayev and Budarin will try to reinforce one of the station’s solar panels, damaged in last June’s collision with a cargo ship.
The spacewalk is expected to last six hours.
The two Russians are scheduled to make more spacewalks on April 6, 11, 16 and 21, an unusually hectic schedule.
They will seek to replace one of the orientation engines, which keeps the space station aligned with the sun, and work on other repair jobs.
The third crew member, American Andrew Thomas, will stay inside during the spacewalks.
After a long series of accidents and breakdowns, the Mir has been largely trouble-free in recent months.