It was the culmination of a series of risky spacewalks where little had gone according to plan.
But after being forced to improvise a toothbrush into a bolt cleaning device to remove a broken power supply unit in a previous spacewalk, Nasa astronaut Sunita Williams could not hide her delight as full power was finally restored to the International Space Station.
The Expedition 32 flight engineer, appeared to touch the bright sun during the mission’s third spacewalk on Sept. 5, 2012 in the amazing new images released today by the space agency.
During the six-hour, 28-minute spacewalk, Williams and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Aki Hoshide (visible in the reflections of Williams’ helmet visor), flight engineer, completed the installation of a Main Bus Switching Unit (MBSU) that was hampered by a possible misalignment and damaged threads where a bolt must be placed.
They also installed a camera on the International Space Station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2.
Earlier in the spacewalk, the two astronauts resorted to MacGyver like moves to save the $100 billion International Space Station with a $3 toothbrush.
Astronauts Sunita Williams and Akihido Hoshide were able to construct a makeshift tool
Their ingenuity allowed for the installation of a much needed part on the space station, needed to relay power.
Trouble on the spacecraft started last week, when Williams and Hoshide were trying to replace a malfunctioning electrical unit, called a main bus switching unit (MBSU), on the space station.
There are four 220-pound MBSUs on the International Space Station that are able to harness power from the outpost’s solar arrays.
But with one of the electrical units not operating, there had been limited power use in the space station and astronauts were called on to replace it with a new one.
Williams and Hoshide had been working to install a new MBSU back on August 30 but encountered difficulty in bolting the new unit down to the spacecraft.
It appeared that there was significant debris, described as metal shavings, that had amassed inside the bolts and was preventing them from attaching it to the space craft and securing the MBSU.
Hoshide was able to maneuver a wire cleaner around one of the bolt holders, that loosed a lot of metal shavings but it just wasn’t enough, he told the NASA team back in Houston.
Their repeated attempts to clean out the bolts drew out their space walk to a daunting 8 hours.
‘Over 10 hours in the suit. No bathroom and no lunch,’ Williams wrote in her blog about the grueling ordeal, about the total time she was suited up for space.
With the debris around the bolts, there was little chance of a successful MBSU installation.
So the space team, along with their colleagues at NASA back on earth put their heads together to figure out a way to fix the problem.
They decided the outer space team needed to do some deep cleaning and the idea for the toothbrush tool was born – fastening a simple toothbrush to a metal pole.
On Wednesday, Williams and Hoshide took to cleaning the bolts.
After about four hours of intense scrubbing, the bolts were pristine and the pair were able to successfully attach the MBSU.
‘Looks like you guys just fixed the station,’ astronaut Jack Fischer radioed from Mission Control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
The International Space Station is currently home to six astronauts: Williams and Joe Acaba of NASA, Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka, Yuri Malenchenko and Sergei Revin.