CAPE CANAVERAL (CBSMiami/AP) — Astronauts replaced more oversized batteries outside the International Space Station on Friday during NASA’s second spacewalk of the week, just as news broke of the death of the world’s first spacewalker in Russia.

NASA interrupted live TV coverage of its second spacewalk this week to announce the death of Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov at age 85.

His 12-minute spacewalk on March 18, 1965, preceded the first U.S. spacewalk by Ed White by less than three months.

“A tribute to Leonov as today is a spacewalk,” Mission Control in Houston reported.

Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, who made the first spacewalk in 1965, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for a photo in 2013. (Photo Source: Mikhail Klimentyev/AP)

Leonov also was the Russian commander of the Apollo-Soyuz joint space mission in 1975, a prelude to the international cooperation seen aboard the current space station.

Five days after their first spacewalk, U.S. astronauts Alexander Morgan and Christina Koch swiftly continued swapping decade-old batteries in the station’s solar power network with new and improved lithium-ion versions. These new batteries are so powerful only one is needed for every two of the hydrogen-nickel units, which will be junked.

By the midway point of Friday’s spacewalk, Morgan and Koch had finished installing three new batteries 260 miles (420 kilometers) up. Given the hefty battery size — about half a refrigerator with a mass of 400 pounds (180 kilograms) — the astronauts had to take turns holding each unit as they moved along the station’s sprawling framework.

It’s the second of five spacewalks planned this month to install six new batteries that arrived via a Japanese supply ship two weeks ago. Morgan and Koch began the outdoor work Sunday.

Morgan has been aboard the space station since July. Koch is two-thirds of the way into what will be the longest single spaceflight by a woman, 300-plus days. On the fourth spacewalk of this series planned for later this month, Koch and Jessica Meir will perform the world’s first all-female spacewalk.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments