Spacewalking astronauts had to take extra safety precautions on Saturday after they likely got toxic ammonia on their suits from the external cooling system of the International Space Station.
Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins had no problem removing and venting a couple of old jumper cables to remove the ammonia still present in the lines. But so much ammonia leaked out of the first tube that Mission Control worried that some of the frozen white flakes might have slipped onto their suits.
Hopkins was surprised by the amount of ammonia released into the vacuum of space. “Oh yeah, look how it goes. Did you see that? “He asked the air traffic controllers.” There is more than I thought. “Although the ammonia stream has been directed far from astronauts and the space station, Hopkins said some ice crystals may have contacted his helmet. As a result, Mission Control said it would be “conservative” and required inspections. The first check of the astronauts’ suit found nothing wrong. “It looks clean,” Hopkins said.
NASA did not want ammonia to enter the space station and contaminate the cabin’s atmosphere. The astronauts used long tools to vent the hoses and stayed away from the nozzles to reduce the risk of contact with ammonia. If necessary, astronauts could spend more time basking in the sunlight before heading back inside to remove any residue. Once the pipes were emptied, the astronauts moved one to a more central location near the NASA hatch, in case it was needed at the opposite end of the station. Ammonia jumper cables were added years ago following a leak in the cooling system. Work on the pipes was supposed to have been completed during a spacewalk a week ago, but was postponed along with other occasional work when power upgrades took longer than expected. Other chores on Saturday included: replacing an antenna for the helmet cameras, rerouting ethernet cables, tightening connections on a European experimental platform, and installing a metal ring on the hatch’s thermal cover.
Eager to get these improvements to the station before the astronauts return home this spring, Mission Control ordered the bonus spacewalk for Glover and Hopkins, which launched last November on SpaceX. They teamed up for back-to-back space walks 1 month and a half ago and were happy to tread another one.
Saturday’s spacewalk started almost an hour late. Before exiting, the astronauts had to replace the communication caps under their helmets in order to hear correctly. “I got you loud and clear,” Hopkins said once the new cap was on his head.
It was the fifth spacewalk – and, barring an emergency, the last – for this crew of seven from the United States, Russia and Japan.
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- Spacewalking astronauts had to take extra safety precautions on Saturday after they likely got toxic ammonia on their suits from The external cooling system of the international space stations Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins had no problem removing and venting a couple of old jumper cables to remove the ammonia still present in the lines.
- Spacewalkers take extra safety precautions for toxic ammonia