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British Astronaut Tim Peake Is Going To Do His First Spacewalk

Peake is planning to leave his perfectly good spaceship and go outside into actual space.

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Tim Peake, the British astronaut, is going to do his first extra-vehicular activity – or spacewalk – next week.

NASA / Bill Stafford / Via esa.int

On 15 January, exactly a month after arriving on the International Space Station (ISS), he is going to put on a space suit and go outside into the hard vacuum of space, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).

He and his fellow astronaut Tim Kopra are going outside to repair a broken part of the station.

Peake said: "Our primary task will be to replace a failed solar shunt unit, which transfers electrical power generated by the solar panels."

It's a relatively straightforward job, according to ESA. The solar shunt is a box which can be removed by undoing a single bolt. The astronauts can replace it with a new one and take the broken one inside for repair. The ISS has been operating on seven solar shunts rather than the usual eight, since this one broke in November.

Once that's done, they will install cables for new docking ports.

Even though the main job isn't that complicated, it'll still take about six hours.

NASA / Via Flickr: nasa2explore

Doing manual work in bulky, pressurised space suits is slow and difficult. The last spacewalk, by Kopra (pictured) and the ISS commander Scott Kelly, took three hours to fix a broken component.

Peake stayed inside the ISS for that one, but helped the other astronauts prepare for the walk.

Just getting ready to go outside takes hours, too. The astronauts have to breathe pure oxygen for two hours before they go out, to avoid getting the bends.

ESA / NASA / Via esa.int

The pressure in the space suits is lower than the pressure in the station. That makes it easier for the astronauts to move their arms and legs, but it also means that any nitrogen dissolved in their blood will form bubbles, like when a scuba diver surfaces too quickly (or when you take the cork out of a champagne bottle). So they breathe oxygen to purge nitrogen from their blood.

So it'll be long, slow, and dangerous. But Tim's excited about it.

ESA / BuzzFeed

He said: "I am thrilled at this opportunity for a spacewalk. Right now we are focusing on preparing the tools, equipment and procedures.

"Maintaining the International Space Station from the outside requires intense operations – not just from the crew, but also from our ground support teams who are striving to make this spacewalk as safe and efficient as possible."

Tom Chivers is a science writer for BuzzFeed and is based in London.

Contact Tom Chivers at tom.chivers@buzzfeed.com.

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