After discovering the ISS was leaking vital coolant for its power systems, NASA on Friday made the decision to send astronauts on an emergency spacewalk to fix the issue. And on Saturday morning, Thomas Marshburn and Chris Cassidy successfully replaced the troublesome pump. Did everyone catch the recent trailer for Gravity? Yeah, imagine that, with less explosions. The two brave astronauts both have one incredible story to tell their grandchildren.
After 2.5 hours of carefully traversing the football field-size station, the two removed and replaced the 260-pound leaking pump from the P6 truss seemingly without issue. NASA actually streamed the entire thing live, making for one of the tensest reality TV episodes in humankind’s history. Let’s hope this one doesn’t get picked up for a sequel or three.
While the leak didn’t pose any immediate danger to the crew, had the leak not been fixed, the ISS could have lost its ability to cool the solar array that was leaking. Before deciding to dispatch humans to fix the problem, NASA considered sending the station’s robotic arm over to the station’s truss. But the problem needed the more dexterous and adaptable human brain. And, amazingly, the two bravely completed their mission in just 2.5 hours; however, the entire spacewalk was expected to last 6.5 hours.
— NASA (@NASA) May 11, 2013
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station train for this type of thing as part of the “Big 12” types of emergency spacewalks. I suppose for astronauts, who spend months up in space at a time, today’s incident was nothing more than a small hiccup. You certainly cannot be afraid of heights.
After replacing the pump, Mission Control ran the new pump as the two spacewalkers looked on for any leaks. So far, everything seems to be back to normal. Pretty incredible what the two flight engineers managed to accomplish. Let’s all give our congratulations to the crew and everyone else involved.