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Italy's Parmitano embarks on unprecedented spacewalk

First in series of spacewalks to service AMS-02

Italy's Parmitano embarks on unprecedented spacewalk

Rome, November 15 - Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, the current commander of the International Space Station (ISS), was leading one of the most challenging spacewalks ever on Friday. The spacewalk is the first of a series of at least four needed to service the cosmic-particle-hunting Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02). It is considered to be the toughest spacewalk series since work to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, in part because the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a cosmic particle detector, was never intended to be repaired in space. Parmitano and his spacewalking partner, NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, went outside the ISS at around 13:00 Italian time. They had to get to a hard-to-reach area on top of the Station's S3 Truss structure between a pair of solar arrays and radiators. The entire spacewalk was expected to take around six hours, but the Italian worked fast and was about one hour ahead of schedule. Parmitano, who is widely known by his Twitter name AstroLuca but has also been nicknamed Luca Skywalker by his fellow astronauts, is the first European to lead a spacewalk. The main task of Friday's spacewalk was to remove the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer's debris shield. The spacewalk was broadcast live and the European Space Agency (ESA) tweeted a video of the moment the debris shield was taken off and pushed away from the ISS. "Now it will burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere," the ESA said. The debris shield protected the facility from micro-meteorites. Parmitano then got to work on installing three handrails for better access in the next spacewalks. Morgan worked next to Parmitano, handing him tools and collecting the insulation material that was being removed. Bernardo Patti, the ESA Manager of International Space Station Operations, on Friday confirmed that Parmitano will lead all of the spacewalks for AMS. "He is the right person," said Patti. "He is trained to do them, given his background as an Air Force test pilot".

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