KOROLEV /Moscow region/, December 11. /TASS/. Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergei Prokopyev have begun the third spacewalk under the Russian program, an official with the Mission Control Center near Moscow told TASS on Tuesday.
"The exit hatch of the Pirs docking compartment has been opened. The cosmonauts should work in the open space for approximately 6 hours and 31 minutes," the official said.
As a source in the domestic space industry told TASS earlier, the spacewalk’s main task is to inspect a hole on the external surface of the habitation module of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft, unsealing thermal insulation and the meteorite shield in the spot determined by the crew as lacking air tightness. The operation to open up the spacecraft’s meteorite shield will be carried out in outer space for the first time in the history of cosmonautics.
Kononenko and Prokopyev will unseal thermal insulation and the meteorite shield, inspect and make a photo of the hole in the habitation module. They will also scrape off samples from the hole’s surface and send them aboard the same Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft to Earth on December 20 for further studies.
If the cosmonauts have time, they can also perform two scientific operations outside the ISS. Kononenko and Prokopyev need to dismantle the equipment of the Endurance experiment, which was carried out to study the influence of the space flight’s conditions on certain materials.
The second task is to remove devices from the Poisk module that were installed on the ISS’s external surface for studies in the conditions of hard cosmic radiation.