Spacewalking or Extravehicular activity (EVA) is any activity done by an astronaut or cosmonaut outside a spacecraft beyond the Earth’s appreciable atmosphere (a moonwalk is also an EVA). The first skywalker was the Soviet cosmonaut Alexey Arkhipovich Leonov. He became the first human to conduct an extra-vehicular activity (EVA) on March 18, 1965; exiting the capsule during the Voskhod 2 mission for a 12-minute spacewalk. Since this very short EVA, a lot of astronauts/cosmonauts spent many hours outside their spacecraft, mostly for maintenance missions. Here are the top 20 longest spacewalks in history.
20. 2002: EVA #218 (7 hours 48 min)
Spacecraft: STS-110 EVA 1
Spacewalkers: Steven Smith (United States), Rex Walheim (United States)
Start: Thursday, 11 April 2002 14:36:00
End: Thursday, 11 April 2002 22:24:00
Smith and Walheim began installing the S0 truss onto Destiny by setting up initial power and data connections between the station and the truss and installing two forward struts that permanently held the truss in place.
19. 2015: EVA #379 (7 hours 48 min)
Spacecraft: Expedition 45 ISS Quest
Spacewalkers: Scott Kelly (United States), Kjell N. Lindgren (United States)
Start: Friday, 06 November 2015 11:22:00
End: Friday, 06 November 2015 19:10:00
Worked to restore a portion of the ISS’s cooling system to its primary configuration, returning ammonia coolant levels to normal in the primary and backup radiator arrays.
18. 1993: EVA #117 (7 hours 54 min)
Spacecraft: STS-61 – EVA 1
Spacewalkers: Story Musgrave (United States), Jeffrey Hoffman (United States)
Start: Sunday, 05 December 1993 03:44:00
End: Sunday, 05 December 1993 11:38:00
Musgrave and Hoffman replaced two sets of gyroscopes and electrical control units, as well as a set of 8 fuses on Hubble. The spacewalkers had considerable difficulty closing the latches on the gyro doors, probably due to thermal expansion of the closure bolts. Working closely with engineers on the ground, the team was able to force the door to latch closed. Before re-entering the shuttle, they prepared the payload bay for the next EVA.
17. 1999: EVA #176 (7 hours 55 min)
Spacecraft: STS-96 – EVA 1
Spacewalkers: Tamara E. Jernigan (United States), Daniel Barry (United States)
Start: Sunday, 30 May 1999 02:56:00
End: Sunday, 30 May 1999 10:51:00
Jernigan and Barry transferred and installed two cranes from Discovery’s payload bay to locations on the outside of the station. They also installed two new portable foot restraints that fit both American and Russian spacesuit boots and attached three bags filled with tools and handrails that were used during future assembly operations.
16. 2007: EVA #261 (7 hours 55 min)
Spacecraft: Expedition 14 EVA 2
Spacewalkers: Michael Lopez-Alegria (United States), Sunita Williams (United States)
Start: Wednesday, 31 January 2007 15:14:00
End: Wednesday, 31 January 2007 23:09:00
López-Alegría and Williams reconfigured one of the two cooling loops serving Destiny from the temporary to a permanent system, connected a cable for the Station-to-Shuttle Power Transfer System (SSPTS), installed six cable cinches and two winch bars to secure the starboard radiator of the P6 Truss, and then installed a shroud over it. They then removed one of two fluid lines from the Early Ammonia Servicer (EAS) on the P6 Truss in preparation for jettisoning the EAS on a later EVA.
15. 2009: EVA #309 (7 hours 56 min)
Spacecraft: STS-125 EVA 2
Spacewalkers: Michael J. Massimino (United States), Michael T. Good (United States)
Start: Friday, 15 May 2009 12:49:00
End: Friday, 15 May 2009 20:45:00
Removed and replaced all three of Hubble’s gyroscope rate sensing units (RSUs). Removed the first of two battery unit modules.
14. 2008: EVA #301 (7 hours 57 min)
Spacecraft: STS-126 EVA 3
Spacewalkers: Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper (United States), Stephen G. Bowen (United States)
Start: Saturday, 22 November 2008 18:01:00
End: Sunday, 23 November 2008 01:58:00
Stefanyshyn-Piper and Bowen completed cleaning and lubrication of all but one of the trundle bearing assemblies (TBA) on the starboard SARJ. The final TBA will be replaced during EVA 4.
13. 2007: EVA #269 (7 hours 58 min)
Spacecraft: STS-117 EVA 3
Spacewalkers: James F. Reilly (United States), John D. Olivas (United States)
Start: Friday, 15 June 2007 17:24:00
End: Saturday, 16 June 2007 01:22:00
Reilly and Olivas repaired the Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) pod thermal blanket, finished the P6 solar array retraction, and installed a hydrogen ventilation valve onto Destiny.
12. 2008: EVA #285 (7 hours 58 min)
Spacecraft: STS-122 EVA 1
Spacewalkers: Rex J. Walheim (United States), Stanley G. Love (United States)
Start: Monday, 11 February 2008 14:13:00
End: Monday, 11 February 2008 22:11:00
Walheim and Love installed a grapple fixture on Columbus while it was still in the shuttle’s payload bay, prepared electrical and data connections on Columbus, and replaced the P1 truss nitrogen (N2) tank used for pressurizing the station’s ammonia cooling system.
11. 2009: EVA #311 (8 hours 2 min)
Spacecraft: STS-125 EVA 4
Spacewalkers: Michael J. Massimino (United States), Michael T. Good (United States)
Start: Sunday, 17 May 2009 13:45:00
End: Sunday, 17 May 2009 21:47:00
Repaired Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph.
10. 2010: EVA #337 (8 hours 3 min)
Spacecraft: Expedition 24 EVA 2
Spacewalkers: Douglas H. Wheelock (United States), Tracy Caldwell Dyson (United States)
Start: Saturday, 07 August 2010 11:19:00
End: Saturday, 07 August 2010 19:22:00
Attempted to replace failed ammonia pump module. The spacewalkers did not complete all of the planned tasks due to a quick disconnect that got stuck and would not release. The pair had to complete a “bake-out” in order to ensure there was no ammonia on their suits before re-entering the Space Station.
9. 2011: EVA #346 (8 hours 7 min)
Spacecraft: STS-134 EVA 2
Spacewalkers: Andrew J. Feustel (United States), Michael Fincke (United States)
Start: Sunday, 22 May 2011 06:05:00
End: Sunday, 22 May 2011 14:12:00
Refilled Port 6 (P5) radiators with ammonia. Finished venting early ammonia system. Lubricated port SARJ and parts of ISS’ Dextre robot. Installed grapple bars on port radiators.
8. 2013: EVA #366 (8 hours 7 min)
Spacecraft: Expedition 38 EVA 3
Spacewalkers: Oleg Kotov (Russia), Sergei Ryazanski (Russia)
Start: Friday, 27 December 2013 13:00:00
End: Friday, 27 December 2013 21:07:00
Attempted installation of 2 HD cameras for commercial Earth observation on the outside of the Zvezda module, cancelled after one of the cameras failed to provide data to the ground during testing. Also installed and jettisoned experimental equipment outside the Russian segment. Longest Russian EVA in history.
7. 1999: EVA #181 (8 hours 8 min)
Spacecraft: STS-103 – EVA 3
Spacewalkers: Steven Smith (United States), John Grunsfeld (United States)
Start: Friday, 24 December 1999 19:17:00
End: Saturday, 25 December 1999 03:25:00
Smith and Grunsfeld replaced a radio transmitter that had failed on Hubble in the previous year. They also replaced a data tape recorder with a solid-state recorder and added some insulation to the outer surface of Hubble.
6. 1999: EVA #180 (8 hours 10 min)
Spacecraft: STS-103 – EVA 2
Spacewalkers: Michael Foale (United States), Claude Nicollier (Switzerland)
Start: Thursday, 23 December 1999 19:06:00
End: Friday, 24 December 1999 03:16:00
Foale and Nicollier replaced the main computer on Hubble with a new, faster machine. They also swapped out one of Hubble’s three Fine Guidance Sensors for a refurbished one that had been previously removed from Hubble and serviced on Earth.
5. 2018: EVA #396 (8 hours 13 min)
Spacecraft: Expedition 54 ISS Pirs
Spacewalkers: Alexander Misurkin (Russia), Anton Shkaplerov (Russia)
Start: Friday, 02 February 2018 15:34:00
End: Friday, 02 February 2018 23:47:00
The duo installed a new electronics and telemetry box for the high gain antenna on the Zvezda service module to enhance communications between Russian flight controllers and the Russian modules. The antenna system appears to be working normally (read more).
4. 1999: EVA #179 (8 hours 15 min)
Spacecraft: STS-103 – EVA 1
Spacewalkers: Steven Smith (United States), John Grunsfeld (United States)
Start: Wednesday, 22 December 1999 18:54:00
End: Thursday, 23 December 1999 03:09:00
Smith and Grunsfeld replaced six of Hubble’s gyroscopes and installed six Voltage/Temperature Improvement Kits during one of the longest spacewalks on record. A planned activity to grease the door hinges was deferred to the next day’s spacewalk.
3. 2012: EVA #353 (8 hours 17 min)
Spacecraft: Expedition 32 EVA 2
Spacewalkers: Sunita Williams (United States), Akihiko Hoshide (Japan)
Start: Thursday, 30 August 2012 12:16:00
End: Thursday, 30 August 2012 20:33:00
Connected two power cables between the US segment and the Russian segment on the ISS; removed and replaced Main Bus Switching Unit (MBSU) 1. The crew have difficulty in removing connecting bolts of the old MBSU, and were unable to tighten up the bolts for the new unit. The new MBSU was tied down for future trouble-shooting, with all other tasks deferred to a future EVA. Third-longest EVA in history.
2. 1992: EVA #100 (8 hours 29 min)
Spacecraft: STS-49 – EVA 3
Spacewalkers: Pierre Thuot (United States), Richard Hieb (United States), Thomas Akers (United States)
Start: Wednesday, 13 May 1992 21:17:00
End: Thursday, 14 May 1992 05:46:00
Thuot, Hieb and Akers captured Intelsat VI with their hands. The trio then pulled the satellite into the payload bay, added a new perigee kick motor, and launched the satellite away from Endeavour. This spacewalk was the first three-person spacewalk in history. The three spacewalkers also set a new record for elapsed spacewalk time.
1. 2001: EVA #195 (8 hours 56 min). The Longest Spacewalk in history.
Spacecraft: STS-102 EVA 1
Spacewalkers: James Voss (United States), Susan Helms (United States)
Start: Sunday, 11 March 2001 05:12:00
End: Sunday, 11 March 2001 14:08:00
Voss and Helms prepared Pressurized Mating Adapter-3 for repositioning from Unity’s Earth-facing berth to the port-side berth to make room for Leonardo, the Italian Space Agency-built Multi-Purpose Logistics Module. They also removed a Lab Cradle Assembly from Discovery’s payload bay and installed it on the side of Destiny, and installed a cable tray to Destiny for later use by the station’s robot arm (Canadarm2). After re-entering the shuttle’s airlock, Voss and Helms remained ready to assist if any troubles installing the docking port were encountered by the crew inside the shuttle. This was the longest spacewalk in the history of space exploration.
Honorable Mentions and Milestones
March 18, 1965: The First Extravehicular activity (EVA) ever: Voskhod 2 Mission
Voskhod 2 (English: ‘Sunrise-2’) was a Soviet manned space mission in March 1965. The Vostok-based Voskhod 3KD spacecraft with two crew members on board, Pavel Belyayev, and Alexey Leonov, was equipped with an inflatable airlock. On March 18, 1965, it established another milestone in space exploration when Alexey Leonov became the first person to leave the spacecraft in a specialized spacesuit to conduct a 12-minute 9-seconds “spacewalk”.
June 03, 1965: The First U.S. Spacewalk – Gemini 4
NASA astronaut Edward Higgins White II (November 14, 1930 – January 27, 1967) made the United States’ first spacewalk on 03 June 1965 during the Gemini 4 mission. The extra-vehicular activity (EVA) started at 19:45 UT (3:45 p.m. EDT) on the third orbit when White opened his hatch and used the hand-held maneuvering oxygen-jet gun to push himself out of the capsule. The EVA started over the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii and lasted 23 minutes, ending over the Gulf of Mexico. Initially, White propelled himself to the end of the 8-meter tether and back to the spacecraft three times using the hand-held gun. After the first three minutes the fuel ran out and White maneuvered by twisting his body and pulling on the tether. The photographs were taken by commander James McDivitt.
January 16, 1969: Soviet Union Achieves the First Two-Man Spacewalk and First EVA Crew Transfer
On January 16, 1969, Soviet cosmonauts Yevgeny Khrunov and Aleksei Yeliseyev conducted the first two-man spacewalk, and also the first EVA crew transfer. Both cosmonauts launched in Soyuz 5, which then docked with Soyuz 4. Khrunov and Yeliseyev performed an EVA to transfer to Soyuz 4. Although docked together, Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5 did not make an internal connection, necessitating the EVA. Khrunov and Yeliseyev returned to Earth aboard Soyuz 4.
During the re-entry, Soyuz 5 service module did not separate, so it entered the atmosphere nose-first, leaving cosmonaut Boris Volynov hanging by his restraining straps. As the craft aerobraked, the atmosphere burned through the module. But the craft righted itself before the escape hatch was burned through. Then, the parachute lines tangled and the landing rockets failed, resulting in a hard landing which broke Volynov’s teeth.
November 13, 1966: Buzz Aldrin smashes existing spacewalking records
During the Gemini 12 spaceflight, Commanded by Gemini VII veteran James A. Lovell, rookie astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin performed three periods of extravehicular activity (EVA), lasting a total of 5 hours and 30 minutes, smashing all previous spacewalking records.
Aldrin’s two-hour, 20-minute tethered space-walk, during which he photographed star fields, retrieved a micrometeorite collector and did other chores, at last demonstrated the feasibility of extravehicular activity. Two more stand-up EVAs also went smoothly.
July 21, 1969: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin Walk on Moon
On July 21, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon. Buzz Aldrin followed, describing the Moon as “magnificent desolation.” During their two-and-a-half hour EVA, the team deployed the Early Apollo Scientific Experimental Package, took a call from President Nixon, collected rock and core samples, raised a United States Flag, and took photographs.
August 5, 1971: Al Worden Performs First Deep Space EVA
The United States made a fourth moon landing with Apollo 15 mission. On the return trip to Earth, Alfred Worden, command module pilot of Apollo 15, performed a spacewalk in deep space, the first of its kind, on August 5, 1971. During this 38-minute deep-space spacewalk, Worden floated to the rear of the spacecraft to collect film canisters and exterior cameras and examine the overall condition of the service module.
February 7, 1984: Bruce McCandless II Performs First Untethered Spacewalk
On February 7, 1984, during the STS-41-B (the tenth NASA Space Shuttle mission and the fourth flight of the Space Shuttle Challenger), NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless II (June 8, 1937 – December 21, 2017) made the first ever untethered free flight using the Manned Maneuvering Unit. With a distance of 98 meters (320 feet) from the space shuttle, he also broke the spacewalking record.
The Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) is an astronaut propulsion unit that was used by NASA on three Space Shuttle missions in 1984. The MMU allowed the astronauts to perform untethered EVA spacewalks at a distance from the shuttle. The MMU was used in practice to retrieve a pair of faulty communications satellites, Westar VI and Palapa B2. Following the third mission, the unit was retired from use. A smaller successor, the Simplified Aid For EVA Rescue (SAFER), was first flown in 1994 and is intended for emergency use only.
July 25, 1984: Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya Becomes the First Woman to Walk in Space
Launched on 19 April 1982, Salyut 7 (English: Salute 7) was a space station in low Earth orbit from April 1982 to February 1991. It was aloft for eight years and ten months (a record not broken until Mir), during which time it was visited by 10 crews constituting six main expeditions and four secondary flights (including French and Indian cosmonauts).
On July 25, 1984, cosmonauts Svetlana Savitskaya and Vladimir Dzhanibekov tested one of the most important repair methods ever, welding and brazing metal samples in the vacuum of space. The experiment worked, the system was proven and Savitskaya, in the process, became the first woman to walk in space. She was also the second woman in space since 1963, when Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova launched on the Vostok 6 mission on June 16, 1963.
- List of spacewalks and moonwalks 1965–1999 on Wikipedia
- List of spacewalks 2000–2014 on Wikipedia
- List of spacewalks since 2015 on Wikipedia
- The First U.S. Spacewalk – Gemini 4 on NASA.gov
- Voskhod 2 on Wikipedia
- Soyuz 5 on Wikipedia
- Gemini 12 on Wikipedia
- Apollo 15 on Wikipedia
- A Visual History of Spacewalks on Time.com
- Salyut 7 on Wikipedia