The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Breaking News

May 11, 2013

Spacewalking repair halts station leak - for now

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Astronauts making a rare, hastily planned spacewalk replaced a pump outside the International Space Station on Saturday in hopes of plugging a serious ammonia leak.

The prospects of success grew as the minutes passed and no frozen flecks of ammonia appeared. Mission Control said it appeared as though the leak may have been plugged, although additional monitoring over the coming days, if not weeks, will be needed before declaring a victory.

"No evidence of any ammonia leakage whatsoever. We have an airtight system — at the moment," Mission Control reported.

Christopher Cassidy and Thomas Marshburn installed the new pump after removing the old one suspected of spewing flakes of frozen ammonia coolant two days earlier. They uncovered "no smoking guns" responsible for the leak and consequently kept a sharp lookout for any icy flecks that might appear from the massive frame that holds the solar panels on the left side.

"Let us know if you see anything," Mission Control urged as the fresh pump was cranked up. Thirty minutes later, all was still well. "No snow," the astronauts radioed.

"We have our eyes on it and haven't seen a thing," Marshburn said.

NASA said the leak, while significant, never jeopardized crew safety. But managers wanted to deal with the trouble now, while it's fresh and before Marshburn returns to Earth in just a few days.

The space agency never before staged such a fast, impromptu spacewalk for a station crew. Even during the shuttle days, unplanned spacewalks were uncommon.

The ammonia pump was the chief suspect going into Saturday's spacewalk. So it was disheartening for NASA, at first, as Cassidy and Marshburn reported nothing amiss on or around the old pump.

"All the pipes look shiny clean, no crud," Cassidy said as he used a long, dentist-like mirror to peer into tight, deep openings.

"I can't give you any good data other than nominal, unfortunately. No smoking guns."

Engineers determined there was nothing to lose by installing a new pump, despite the lack of visible damage to the old one. The entire team — weary and stressed by the frantic pace of the past two days — gained more and more confidence as the 5 1/2-hour spacewalk drew to a close with no flecks of ammonia popping up.

"Gloved fingers crossed," space station commander Chris Hadfield said in a tweet from inside. "No leaks!" he wrote a half-hour later.

Flight controllers in Houston worked furiously to get ready for Saturday's operation, completing all the required preparation in under 48 hours. The astronauts trained for just such an emergency scenario before they rocketed into orbit; the repair job is among NASA's so-called Big 12.

This area on the space station is prone to leaks.

The ammonia coursing through the plumbing is used to cool the space station's electronic equipment. There are eight of these power channels, and all seven others were operating normally. As a result, life for the six space station residents was pretty much unaffected, aside from the drama unfolding Saturday 255 miles above the planet. The loss of two power channels, however, could threaten science experiments and backup equipment.

"We may not have found exactly the smoking gun," Cassidy said, "but to pull off what this team did yesterday and today, working practically 48 straight hours, it was a remarkable effort on everybody's behalf."

NASA's space station program manager Mike Suffredini said it's a mystery as to why the leak erupted. Possibilities include a micrometeorite strike or a flawed seal. Ammonia already had been seeping ever so slightly from the location, but the flow increased dramatically Thursday.

Marshburn has been on the space station since December and is set to return to Earth late Monday. Cassidy is a new arrival, on board for just 1½ months.

By coincidence, the two performed a spacewalk at this troublesome spot before, during a shuttle visit in 2009.

"This type of event is what the years of training were for," Hadfield said in a tweet Friday. "A happy, busy crew, working hard, loving life in space."

___

 

1
Text Only
Breaking News
  • Detroit retirees back pension cuts by a landslide

    A year after filing for bankruptcy, Detroit is building momentum to get out, especially after workers and retirees voted in favor of major pension changes just a few weeks before a judge holds a crucial trial that could end the largest public filing in U.S. history.

    July 22, 2014

  • US stock futures climb as earnings reports roll in

     U.S. stock futures pointed higher early Tuesday as more corporate earnings rolled in. Shares in the restaurant chain Chipotle and the cable company Comcast surged after they reported results that were better than Wall Street expected.

    July 22, 2014

  • Genetic mapping triggers new hope on schizophrenia

    Scientists have linked more than 100 spots in our DNA to the risk of developing schizophrenia, casting light on the mystery of what makes the disease tick.

    July 22, 2014

  • Carmel ordinance targets detouring semitrailers

    The city of Carmel has banned semitrailers from some of its streets after the big rigs began using them to get around a closed section of U.S. 31 north of Indianapolis.

    July 22, 2014

  • Beef pollutes more than pork, poultry, study says

    Raising beef for the American dinner table does far more damage to the environment than producing pork, poultry, eggs or dairy, a new study says.

    July 22, 2014

  • High child poverty casts pall over gains in Hoosier schools

    Indiana children are doing better in school, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, but the high rate of child poverty remains a big concern.

    July 22, 2014

  • Check doctors' vitals, before they check yours

    Americans consider insurance and a good bedside manner in choosing a doctor, but will that doctor provide high-quality care? A new poll shows that people don't know how to determine that.

    July 21, 2014

  • Afghan vet who fought wounded gets Medal of Honor

    Bleeding from both legs and his arm, Ryan Pitts kept firing at about 200 Taliban fighters, even holding onto his grenades an extra moment to ensure the enemy couldn't heave them back. On Monday, President Barack Obama draped the Medal of Honor around his neck, in a somber White House ceremony that also paid tribute to his nine platoon comrades who died that summer day in Afghanistan.

    July 21, 2014

  • NASA names building for moonwalker Neil Armstrong

    NASA honored one of its most famous astronauts Monday by renaming a historic building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

    July 21, 2014

  • Indy to use computer game to teach kids about law

    Indianapolis police are trying out an interactive computer game based on television's "Jeopardy!" to prevent teenagers from falling into lives of crime by teaching them about the consequences of breaking Indiana's laws.

    July 21, 2014

Featured Ads
More Resources from The Herald Bulletin
AP Video
Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die Raw: MH17 Passenger Remains in Kharkiv, Ukraine Raw: Israel Hits Gaza Targets, Destroys Mosques ShowBiz Minute: Hoffman, Oberst, Box Office WWII Vet Gets Medals, 70 Years Late Raw: Israel Bombs Multiple Targets in Gaza Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks From Space Station Widow: Jury Sent Big Tobacco a $23B Message New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts UN Security Council Calls for MH 17 Crash Probe Obama Bestows Medal of Honor on NH Veteran Texas Sending National Guard Troops to Border Hopkins to Pay $190M After Pelvic Exams Taped Foxx Cites Washington 'Circus Mirror' NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Helium debate
Helium
Front page
Poll

Do you expect your physician to follow state standards and laws?

Of course
Not always
Never thought about it
     View Results