NASA Astronauts Face Few Snags As They Spacewalk to Fix ISS Plumbing; Here’s What Happened

NASA astronauts took exceptional measures to prevent toxic ammonia refrigerant from staying in the plumbing when they went on a spacewalk on Saturday to rearrange the plumbing on the space stations.

(Photo: NASA / Getty Images)
American astronaut Joseph Tanner waves to the camera during a space walk as part of the STS-115 mission to the International Space Station in September 2006.

The job was due to end a week ago on a trip outside the International Space Station. However, the performance improvements took longer than expected.

According to Republic World, Mission Control ordered the bonus space walk for Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins to complete the station upgrades before the astronauts return home this spring.

How did the cleaning go?

Bloomberg said both astronauts would have no problem cutting and venting a pair of old jumper cables to clear the lines of residual ammonia. However, the first hose spat out so much ammonia that Mission Control feared some of the icy white flakes might have gotten onto their clothing.

Hopkins said ice crystals may have contacted his helmet even though the ammonia flow was diverted away from the astronauts and the space station. As a result, Mission Control stated that it would be “vigilant” and request inspections.

NASA didn’t want ammonia to get into the space station’s cabin and contaminate the air, EuroNews said. In order not to come into contact with ammonia, the astronauts used long instruments to deflate the tubes and keep them out of the nozzles.

The astronauts relocated one of the ammonia hoses to a more central position near the NASA hatch after emptying it, if necessary at the opposite end of the station. Years earlier, after a leak in the cooling system, astronauts installed the ammonia jumper cables.

WHO: @AstroVicGlover & @Astro_illini
WHAT: 6.5 hour space walk outside of @Space_Station
WHY: Upgrade the station cooling and communication systems

Meet your @NASA_Astronauts and tasks for today’s spacewalk:

– NASA (@NASA) March 13, 2021

ALSO READ: International Space Station deals with broken toilet as astronauts on their way home

Mission Control said the astronauts had been spending a lot of time in the sunshine removing traces of ammonia from their helmets by the time the nearly seven-hour spacewalk came to an end. Glover and Hopkins crew members said they didn’t discover ammonia until they got back inside. Even so, they also wore gloves when handling the suits.

What were the catches?

The tubing work should be done a week ago during a spacewalk. Even so, it was postponed along with other odd jobs as the performance improvements were taking longer than planned.

Other activities on Saturday included replacing an antenna for helmet cameras, rerouting Ethernet cables, tightening the cable ties on a European test platform and adding a metal ring to the cover of the thermal hatch.

Mission Control requested the bonus space walk for Glover and Hopkins that SpaceX launched last November to complete those station upgrades before the astronauts return home this spring. They had done consecutive spacewalks a month and a half earlier and were thrilled to do so again.

When they successfully tried to clean the ISS Plumbing, they ran into some problems.

The spacewalk started about an hour late because the astronauts wanted to put the eavesdropping caps under their helmets back on in order to hear clearly. A few hours later, Glover’s right eye began to water. The discomfort quickly subsided, but his left eye was still affected.

Then, when Glover was finished, a bolt came loose and drifted along with the washers towards the new space debris.

RELATED ARTICLE: International Space Station faces inevitable repairs

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