NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan are floating around in low Earth orbit today, installing the second of two docking adapters on the International Space Station. The international docking adapters — or IDAs — will allow Boeing and SpaceX commercial spacecraft to connect to the ISS and deliver crew members and supplies. Earthbound humans can watch the spacewalk on NASA’s live feed below.
NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan began their spacewalk at 8:27 AM Eastern and are expected to finish their extravehicular activities at about 3:00 PM. The IDAs were delivered on July 27th aboard the SpaceX Dragon cargo resupply spacecraft, the first was installed earlier this summer. Ground controllers have maneuvered the IDA feet from the pressurized mating adapter connected to the ISS using robotic arms. As Hague and Morgan approach, the IDA will make surface-to-surface contact with the mating adapter and the astronauts will fully connect the two ends of the adapters as well as all power and data lines.
NASA has been embracing commercial space organizations such as SpaceX and Blue Origin, having recently announced a partnership with 13 companies to co-develop space flight technology. The agency’s plans for the future, such as a return to the moon or a manned mission to Mars, will almost certainly be cooperative efforts with these companies. In the meantime, the agency is working on several ambitious projects, such as the Mars 2020 rover, which will search for past microbial life on the red planet, and the James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful infrared observatory to date.