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What kind of routine tasks have to be performed on the outside of spaceships or space stations? Repairs, I presume. Anything else?

Is there anything that needs to be cleaned off from the outside, like debris, or some other substance? Can anything on the surface freeze?

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closed as off-topic by Dilaton, Chris White, Dan, Waffle's Crazy Peanut, Manishearth Jul 20 '13 at 13:57

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@DeerHunter: Hm. So just in theory, could you imagine something that would have to be removed from the outside in the future, even if only for aesthetic reasons? What if things get more crowded in space and debris becomes more common? –  fhd Jul 18 '13 at 9:34
If you see a possible conjunction, you plan a DAM (debris avoidance maneuver). Basically, anything that intersects your orbit may possibly penetrate the tinfoil-thin shell of the spacecraft. –  Deer Hunter Jul 18 '13 at 9:45
Re: removal - aesthetic reasons aren't valid. Anything else is practical and possible (crew safety, craft survival, craft performance reasons). –  Deer Hunter Jul 18 '13 at 9:48
This is not a physics question. It would however be suitable for space.stackexchange.com –  Chris White Jul 18 '13 at 15:40
@ChrisWhite - it is still in private beta. After a week, a lot of space questions are liable for migration. –  Deer Hunter Jul 18 '13 at 17:22
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1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Space EVAs are performed to

  1. repair stuff;
  2. install new equipment;
  3. inspect and photograph ship/station from the outside;
  4. reconfigure electrical/hydraulic connections;
  5. disassemble/disconnect existing equipment;
  6. stow/unstow equipment when remote manipulators are unavailable;
  7. deploy and retrieve (grab) satellites for repair (own sats)/perusal (alien/enemy sats);
  8. conduct experiments (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expedition_5);
  9. claim priority;
  10. conduct ship-to-ship transfers in case of incompatible/malfunctioning docking nodes;
  11. drop spanners and other things inadvertently...

Cleaning is not really something that's planned. Leaking ammonia/water from the cooling loops will usually evaporate. Any other water is recycled, solid residue is lyophilized, stored in bags and then dumped in cargo ships.

Aesthetic reasons aren't usually taken into account - see this picture of Zvezda Solar Arrays:

ISS solar arrays Credit: NASA

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