(CNN Business) — Two astronauts, a European and a Russian, left the lock of the International Space Station on Thursday to carry out a spacewalk, which is the first time in more than 20 years that a joint effort of this type has been carried out.
Samantha Cristoforetti, an Italian astronaut with the European Space Agency, and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev entered the vacuum of space in their white spacesuits before 11 a.m. ET, and are expected to spend about seven hours working to set up a robotic arm. 10.9 meters long in one of the modules of the space station.
Spacewalks are a routine task on the International Space Station, but usually it involves two Americans or Europeans, one American and one European, or two Russians working together. The last time a European astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut left the ISS together wearing Russian-made Orlan spacesuits was in April 1999, according to NASA. (An American and a Russian also conducted a joint spacewalk in 2009.)
Thursday’s spacewalk is the first for Cristoforetti and the sixth for Artemyev. Their joint mission comes at a time when tensions on Earth between Russia and the United States and their allies are at a critical point amid the Ukraine war, even though NASA has repeatedly said the conflict is not has affected cooperation in space.
This is the third spacewalk carried out by ISS astronauts to work on the installation of the european robotic arm, which will be able to move objects in and out of the space station for maintenance and even inspect the exterior of the space station using built-in cameras. The arm, which will be the third robotic member attached to the station and the only one capable of reaching the Russian-controlled part of the space station, will be attached to the outside of the Russian space station’s new module, called Nauka.
Artemyev and Cristoforetti kicked off their spacewalk on Thursday by deploying “ten nanosatellites designed to collect radio and electronic data.” Since the space station is already traveling at orbital speeds, deploying the satellites is as easy as launching them in one direction or another.
The spacewalk is the sixth conducted on the ISS so far in 2022 and the 251st overall. Astronauts regularly leave the station to maintain its exterior, install new equipment, or conduct science experiments.
You can watch the spacewalk live via ESA Web TV this Thursday. Viewers can recognize Cristoforetti by the blue stripes on his spacesuit, while Artemyev wears red stripes.