March 1, 2015

Think you’d like to walk in space? Don’t be so sure. Yes, the view is great; yes, the weightlessness is fun. But the work is punishing. You’re either too hot or too cold—which is what happens when the temperature goes from 200º F to -200º F (93º C to -129º C) depending on whether you’re in shadow or sun. Then there are the aching hands that come from trying to operate tools while wearing pressurized gloves with all the flexibility of a catcher’s mitt; the fogged visor that can occur when you break a sweat—and make no mistake, you will sweat—and the fact that you cannot scratch your nose or mop your brow for the entire eight or nine hours that you’re inside your suit. And have we mentioned the diaper?

So kudos to commander Barry Wilmore and flight engineer Terry Virts who on March 1 will step outside the International Space Station for their third spacewalk in just over a week to run cable and otherwise prepare the orbiting outpost for the arrival of new commercial crew vehicles in 2017. NASA is streaming the walk live and once you start watching the slo-mo, high-def ballet, it can be hard to stop. Flying in space is much harder than it seems. Watching the men and women who make the trips, however, can be nothing but joy.

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