Urgent spacewalk to fix ISS leak

2013-05-11 07:14
Astronaut Robert Behnken participates in the mission's second session of extravehicular activity as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station. (AP Photo)

Astronaut Robert Behnken participates in the mission's second session of extravehicular activity as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station. (AP Photo)

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Washington -Two astronauts will make a precedent-setting spacewalk on Saturday to try to fix an ammonia leak in the International Space Station's power system.

Spacewalks are rarely done on such short notice, but the US space agency says the six-member crew is not in danger.

The ammonia leak was discovered on Thursday and forced the shutdown of one of eight solar panels that power the station, but the outpost can operate fine with only seven, NASA spokesperson Kelly Humphries said.

One of the spacewalk veterans scheduled for the job was due to return to earth on Monday, one reason Nasa wants to tackle the problem this weekend, Humphries said.

Station Commander Chris Hadfield of Canada told Nasa flight controllers on Friday that the crew is completely ready for the spacewalk.

"I think it's really smart the way we're all proceeding here," Hadfield radioed down to earth. "It's the right thing to do."

Hadfield tweeted that the crew was working "like clockwork" and said the two US astronauts, Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn, were already getting their spacesuits ready, adding "Cool!"

The leak is in one of the radiator lines that chill the power systems. Nasa spokesperson Rob Navias said the line was expected to run out of ammonia coolant on Friday. Power has been rerouted and is operating normally, he said.

The repair is what Nasa calls one of the "Big 12" types of emergency repair work that all spacewalking astronauts train for in advance, Navias said.


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