An early morning (US Earth time) alarm Wednesday on the International Space Station led to an evacuation of the US segment of the orbiting base. The Expedition 42 crew members were moved to the Russian segment of the ISS, where are all are reported to be "safe and in good shape."
"Flight controllers in Mission Control at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston saw an increase in pressure in the station's water loop for thermal control system B then later saw a cabin pressure increase that could be indicative of an ammonia leak in the worst case scenario," NASA reported. The alarm sounded at about 4 a.m. Eastern.
Spacecraft communicator James Kelly was in touch with the crew to let them know early analysis shows that the issue may well be a false indication from a faulty sensor or computer relay. "Everything is looking pretty normal right now," Kelly told the astronauts, describing the report as "great news." Kelly's communication indicates there's no hurry to move the crew back into the US segment.
The ISS and its array of scientific experiments have been in the public eye lately thanks to topics as diverse as acreating tools in space and SpaceX's attempt to that can be used for resupply missions. In 2013, astronauts conducted an . That leak was described as significant, but not a safety threat.
Though the astronauts will likely be tasked with repairing what caused the error, it's good news that a more serious hasn't issue hasn't developed at 268 miles above Earth. "Flight controllers are continuing to analyze the situation but for now, there is still no direct evidence that ammonia was leaked into the station atmosphere," says NASA.