• No_Ads
US astronauts begin spacewalk for station repairsPublish Date: Dec 21, 2013
US astronauts begin spacewalk for station repairs
  • mail
  • img
This picture grabbed on images released by the NASA on December 21, 2013 shows two US astronauts who stepped outside the International Space Station for the first of three spacewalks to fix a broken equipment cooling system. CREDIT/AFP (Source: NASA)

WASHINGTON - Two US astronauts on Saturday stepped outside the International Space Station for the first of three spacewalks to fix a broken equipment cooling system, NASA said.

"Today's spacewalk has officially begun," said a NASA commentator as the space agency broadcast live images of Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata leading the operation from inside the space station.

The spacewalk began at 7:01 am (1201 GMT), a few minutes earlier than planned. It is expected to last six and a half hours.

Veteran spacewalker Rick Mastracchio is making his seventh career spacewalk, accompanied by rookie Mike Hopkins, who is making his first venture outside the global research lab.

Wakata is operating the station's 50-foot (15-meter) robotic arm, hoisting Mastracchio and hefty equipment from one section of the lab to another.

The men's first task is to disconnect the failed ammonia pump, which is about the size of a refrigerator.

On the second spacewalk, set for Monday, the astronauts are to remove the pump so it can be replaced with a spare that was already stowed at the ISS.

A third spacewalk is planned for Christmas Day, when the failed pump will be shuttled away and final installations made on its replacement.

However, there is a chance the astronauts will be able to complete all their work in two spacewalks, NASA has said.

If not, the Christmas Day outing would be the first since 1974, when a pair of NASA astronauts "stepped outside the Skylab space station to retrieve film from a telescope and photograph Comet Kohoutek," the US space agency said.

The urgent spacewalks were called for this week due to a faulty valve that caused a partial shutdown in the system that regulates equipment temperature at the space station.

Engineers tried to fix the problem from the ground, but eventually decided they needed to replace the ammonia pump.

The six-man crew was never in danger, but NASA wanted to repair the problem sooner rather than later, agency officials said.

The spacewalks meant the first regular commercial cargo supply mission by Orbital Sciences' Cygnus craft, which had been planned for earlier in the week, was postponed. It will now fly no earlier than January 7.

NASA also had to rig up some last-minute contingency gear inside the US-made spacesuits, which have not been used since a helmet water leak nearly drowned a European astronaut in July.

Now the helmets carry an extra absorption pad and a snorkel inside, just in case.

The investigation into the cause of the helmet leak is ongoing. Hopkins will be wearing the suit that had the problem, though its inner water pump has been replaced.

NASA said it would check with the astronauts throughout the day to make sure they were not feeling any "squishy" sensation behind their necks, which might indicate a water buildup and would cut short the spacewalk, space agency commentators said.

The first check, 31 minutes into the outing, was clear, with astronauts reporting dry conditions and no problems in the spacesuits or gloves, NASA said.

The astronauts also trained for the emergency spacewalks by watching video of a previous outing to replace an ammonia pump in 2010.

With each astronaut sporting a helmet camera, NASA TV showed the operations in real-time from the perspective of the spacewalkers.


The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
Putin warns Ukraine on brink of civil war as Kiev sends army in
Russian leader Vladimir Putin warns that Ukraine is on the verge of civil war, the Kremlin said Wednesday, after the Kiev government sent in troops against pro-Moscow separatists in the east of the country....
Lawyers: Pistorius Did Himself No Favours In The Dock
Oscar Pistorius did himself more harm than good when he took the witness stand, say South African lawyers....
Gunmen shoot Belgian head of Virunga National Park
Unidentified armed men on Tuesday critically wounded the Belgian head of Africa's oldest wildlife reserve, the Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo, officials said....
S. Korea ferry with 450 passengers sinks
South Korean coastguard vessels and helicopters pulled passengers off a stricken ferry as it sank off the southern coast with around 450 passengers on board....
South Sudan rebel chief vows to take key oil fields, capital
South Sudan rebel chief vows to attack Juba & target crucial oil fields, warning that the civil war will not end until the country''s president is removed from power....
Pistorius faces
South African prosecutor Gerrie Nel indicated on Tuesday that he would wrap up his searing cross-examination of Oscar Pistorius, who has now spent more than a week in the witness box....
Is the return of Buganda Properties a sign of good Governance?
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter