Two astronauts on the International Space Station made a daring rushed spacewalk on Saturday to fix a leak in its ammonia coolant system. The spacewalk was planned and executed in record time in what was described as an "emergency spacewalk."
The ammonia leak was spotted last Thursday by the astronauts, who spotted white specks of ammonia outside of the ISS that had frozen from the icy cold of space. The ammonia did not immediately endanger the lives of the crew, but could have lead to a disruption in the power systems of the station had it not been fix, so the emergency spacewalk was planned.
The spacewalk was planned and executed in the quickest time for a space station crew spacewalk in history. In a little over 48 hours, NASA planned the mission and performed all of the required preparations in a marathon session that saw some down at mission control work for 48 hours straight.
The ammonia leak's threat was, again, not immediate but could have threatened other critical systems. Ammonia is utilized to cool the ISS's electronic equipment. Of the eight power channels on ISS, the leak forced NASA to shut off one, which the ISS can handle with no problem. Leaving the leak to be repaired later might have forced NASA to shut off another power channel, threatening scientific experiments and backup systems.
Astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Christopher Cassidy went out on the spacewalk this morning to fix the leak. NASA has video of the ammonia leak below:
Canadian astronaut and mission commander Chris Hadfield tweeted live during the experience, proving that not even going to space will let you escape social media:
He tweeted some pictures of his view of the repair job after the spacewalk was over:
By all reports the spacewalk was a success. Marshburn and Cassidy had trained for this type of event before then went up into space and had actually performed a similar spacewalk in 2009 by coincidence. NASA will spend several weeks monitoring the station to make sure the leak is fully shut down.