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NASA Orders Spacewalks To Repair Space Station

NASA said two astronauts must attempt three spacewalks to repair the cooling system that malfunctioned Dec. 11.
Posted at 9:09 PM, Dec 17, 2013

NASA announced Tuesday two crew members on board the International Space Station will attempt spacewalks to repair the damaged cooling system that malfunctioned Dec. 11. 

The space agency said astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins will attempt three six-and-a-half-hour spacewalks to remove and then replace a pump module that has a failed valve. (Via NASA)

NASA explained in a statement "The pump is associated with one of the station's two external cooling loops, which circulate ammonia outside the station to keep both internal and external equipment cool."

After assessing the situation last week, NASA officials said the spacewalks would be the final option for repairing the damaged components only if a software patch failed to do the trick. 

NASA also said they've had to power down some non-essential systems and science experiments on the ISS but that the six crew members are not in danger. (Via CNN)

Mastracchio called the situation "serious" because spacewalks are needed to repair the station but added he and the other crew members are well-prepared for the mission.

"We have the spare parts, we have the training, we have the skills. Of course, going out and doing a spacewalk is always very exciting, yet very challenging." (Via NASA)

NASA astronauts performed similar spacewalks to fix the same cooling pump three years ago, but this will be the first stroll outside the space station since July when an Italian astronaut almost drowned. (Via Fox News)

The Los Angeles Times reports the astronaut's helmet began filling with water typically used to stabilize suit temperature. Luckily, he was able to make his way back to the station door in time. U.S. spacewalks were temporarily suspended after the incident.

The astronauts will make the spacewalks on Dec. 21, 23 and 25 with all three beginning at 7:10 a.m. EST.