Astronauts Spacewalking Outside Space Station Install Antenna the Wrong Way

On Saturday, two Russian cosmonauts set a new record for the longest spacewalk outside the International Space Station. But the reason for the record-breaking work session was a little less than ideal: The pair had trouble setting up the new antenna electronics box they were installing. In the end, they got it up and running, although with the antenna pointing in the opposite direction than was originally intended.

The spacewalk was scheduled to allow the cosmonauts to replace a 60-pound electronics box attached to the outside of a Russian section of the space station. The box, which powers a communications antenna, had never really been used on account of funding problems that delayed the satellites the system was meant to communicate with. After almost two decades of just hanging out in space, the electronics originally launched were no longer up to the task.

Even worse, the electronics box was never designed to be worked on in space, where the bulky gloves astronauts have to wear for safety reduce their manual dexterity and make manipulating tiny parts difficult. That meant the replacement process was always going to be a hassle.

02_05_iss_astronaut_spacewalk Russian astronaut Anton Shkaplerov during a previous spacewalk, in 2012. NASA

When the astronauts finally switched out the electronics box, they discovered that the antenna, which had been folded up for the maintenance work, couldn't unfold. Eventually, the pair of cosmonauts forced the antenna into its active, unfolded position, although that turned out to be pointing the opposite direction as it had originally been intended to point. Nevertheless, NASA confirms it is functional.

The old electronics box was tossed out behind the ISS to prevent damage to the space station and will eventually fall back to Earth, burning up in the atmosphere.

Read more: Trump Administration Could End NASA Funding to International Space Station After 2025

NASA TV's commentator Rob Navias couldn't resist a little holiday humor as the record-breaking spacewalk began. "It is Groundhog Day ... and as cosmonauts have emerged from the Pirs docking compartment, ultimately they'll see their shadow … thus earning 6 more hours of spacewalk activity."

The two cosmonauts who completed the walk, Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov, have both worked in space before, tallying 20 hours and six hours respectively on spacewalks. According to NASA, Saturday's spacewalk was the 207th at the ISS and the fifth longest spacewalk ever.

The station's next spacewalk is scheduled for February 15, after having been postponed from late January.

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