two astronauts russians finalized this Wednesday (2) the decommissioning of the Pirs coupling compartment, connected to the International Space Station (ISS). The work lasted approximately seven hours.

Pirs is located on the Russian part of the ISS, and served as an anchor point for spacecraft. Soyuz and Progress, as well as a spacewalk entry and exit point for cosmonauts from the station's Zvezda module.


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Image shows the Pirs docking module on the International Space Station
The Pirs docking module started its work in 2001, and will now be disconnected from the International Space Station in exchange for a more updated module. Image: Wikimedia Commons/Reproduction

Originally released in September 2001, the module served for 20 years until it began to be dismantled by Russian astronauts. The idea is for the removal of Pirs to be done by July 17th, giving the ISS space to receive the scientific module Nauka, whose launch is scheduled for the 15th of the same month.

Part of the decommissioning operation saw some tools and parts being launched into space, as they would be too big to be taken back into the station or for visiting ships to take them back to Earth. According to experts, this type of disposal is normal for all nations that participate in the ISS.

After removing some parts, the astronauts – Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov – installed some smaller modules that will be connected to the Nauka when it arrives.

That's because Nauka is more focused on scientific research, then the pair worked to secure experimental structures for studies of Earth's microflora and the effects of a variety of materials in orbit.

Finally, when the time comes, the Progress vessel MS-16 will be responsible for pulling the Pirs out of the station, following orders to retract its automatic connectors.

After acquiring a safe distance from the station, the ship will detach from the Pirs near the re-entry, allowing the module to then drop towards Earth – a maneuver will mark the end of its useful life.

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