Ever been foiled by technology while trying to take pictures of something awesome? Don’t fret, it can literally happen to the most amazing of humans.
On last week’s spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS), flight engineer Drew Feustel found himself stumped by a GoPro camera complaining about the lack of a memory card. Whelp.
Feustel and his crewmate Ricky Arnold from the current ISS Expedition 55 embarked on a scheduled spacewalk on May 16 – both of them are experienced astronauts and have stared down the vastness of empty space before.
They were working on some maintenance tasks of the station’s external cooling system, and in-between the jobs Feustel was going to take some pictures with a seriously space-armoured GoPro camera.
Except it was not to be, as this user-made clip of NASA’s official Twitch spacewalk livestream shows:
“Hey Houston, I’ve got a question about the GoPro real quick?”
“We’re all ears, go ahead,” replies Houston ground liaison, astronaut Butch Wilmore.
“I see a no… I’m pushing the button, and I see a ‘no SD,’ that means, do I need that to record? And if it’s recording, is there supposed to be a red light on?”
There’s a rather lengthy pause from Wilmore down on Earth; then he clarifies something with Arnold who’s still working with a power tool on some connectors.
Then it’s back to the GoPro, in an awkward exchange reminiscent of every family holiday photo session ever.
“I’m told that if it has the card in it, it should have a red light if it’s recording,” Wilmore says.
“And if it says ‘No SD,’ what does that mean?”
“I think that means no card,” comes a not-entirely-certain response.
But these are astronauts we’re dealing with here. Hurtling around Earth at 7.5 kilometres per second (4.7 miles/s), with nothing but a clunky spacesuit protecting them from the vacuum of space.
Camera not working? Get your priorities straight and move on to more important tasks, even if the internet then finds the footage and makes fun of you.
“Well, we can put this one back in the pack then, I guess,” Feustel says, and Houston wholeheartedly agrees.
“That sounds like a good plan!”
It was the only plan, anyway. Modern GoPro cameras don’t have any built-in memory, and it’s not like the astronaut could just quickly dip back into the space station to fetch an SD card.
But camera woes aside, the two men successfully completed their 6-hour, 31-minute spacewalk with all the jobs they needed to get done. We didn’t get those sweet GoPro shots, but you can still watch the whole livestream recording here (the entire GoPro exchange starts at 02:09).
And for incredible GoPro footage taken on a spacewalk, we’ve got the handiwork of Expedition 52/53 member Randy Bresnik last year.
Meanwhile, Feustel and Arnold are due to get outside the ISS again on June 14, so let’s hope they can find an SD card by then, and hopefully will have some time for taking pictures in-between the important maintenance work they’ll be doing.
Bonus: If you want to hear an incredible story of how two astronauts nearly died on a spacewalk, make sure to check out this episode of Radiolab.