International Space Station Astronauts Plan To Repair Broken Cooling Line

Rick Mastracchio (left) and Mike Hopkins check a U.S. spacesuit inside the Quest airlock Image [Credit: NASA TV]
NASA revealed more about a planned series of urgent space walks to fix a broken cooling line at the international space station. Officials say the massive repair job could stretch to Christmas ay.

International Space Station managers decided to send two American astronauts out as soon as possible, to replace a pump with a bad valve.

ISS program manager Mike Suffredini says astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Michael Hopkins are prepared for the massive undertaking.

"This is not a complete loss to begin with. Because of the way we're learning to manage it, we have more confidence today than we did yesterday, and I suspect tomorrow and the next day, we'll gain more. If you lost a whole pump again, you lose half the cooling to half your power system, so that would have a more dramatic impact than you see here today."

Half of the space station's cooling system shut down last Wednesday, forcing the six man crew to turn off all non-essential equipment, including some science experiments.

"Last time we had a pump failure, there was a major power systems and power distribution systems outside that lost cooling, and so that has a dramatic impact. And those components remain active, and so therefore we are supplying power to many of the systems that we had to manage last time."

ISS flight director Dina Contella says this is the same pump that was replaced in 2010.

"And so, we're lucky that we had the 2010 incident because that's really prepared us, we have already lessons learned. And we had a team called the Failure Response Assessment Team, the FRAT team, and that team had already put all those lessons learned into all of our documentation."

The repair mission could involve two, possibly three spacewalks on Saturday, Monday and next Wednesday, Christmas Day.

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Pat Hernandez

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Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...