NASA plans three spacewalks for crucial repairs on space station

After a faulty pump for the space station's cooling system goes on the fritz, astronauts must venture outside the station to replace the machine.

The International Space Station is currently suffering a partial cooling system problem. NASA

NASA has decided the only way to fix a cooling system issue that has plagued the International Space Station over the past week is to send astronauts out on a series of spacewalks. The walks are scheduled to take place on December 21, 23, and 25.

The crew aboard the ISS has been working to fix a faulty pump module for the cooling system since December 11. The problem came about because one of two ammonia loops that keep equipment both outside and inside the ISS cool unexpectedly shut down. This has caused the crew to have to power down some of the station's systems to prevent critical equipment from overheating.

"NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins will remove a pump module that has a failed valve," NASA said in a statement. "They will replace it with an existing spare that is stored on an external stowage platform."

Spacewalks by US astronauts have been on hold since Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano encountered a helmet malfunction in July. While on a spacewalk, Parmitano's helmet filled with water causing him to temporarily lose visibility and nearly drown. According to the Washington Post, other suits will be used by Mastracchio and Hopkins.

NASA said it never had a problem like this before, but neither the crew nor the station itself are in any kind of danger. However, these repairs have caused NASA to postpone its Orbital Sciences commercial cargo resupply mission to the station.

This isn't the first problem the ISS has experienced issues with its cooling system. In May, the cooling system sprung a leak , the same loop that had also had a leaking problem in November 2012. In 2010, the ISS crew also had to conduct spacewalks to deal with another failed coolant system pump.

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About the author

Dara Kerr, a freelance journalist based in the Bay Area, is fascinated by robots, supercomputers and Internet memes. When not writing about technology and modernity, she likes to travel to far-off countries.

 

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