Title: NASA Cancels Spacewalk Due to Ammonia Coolant Leak on International Space Station
In a setback for NASA’s space exploration plans, a scheduled spacewalk on Thursday, October 12, has been called off due to a leak of ammonia coolant detected on the International Space Station (ISS). The leak was first identified on Monday, October 9, in a backup radiator on the Russian Nauka science module.
As a precautionary measure, NASA officials have also postponed another spacewalk originally planned for October 20. The new dates for these crucial tasks, such as maintenance on the station and collecting samples for analysis, will be announced soon.
NASA engineering and flight control teams are currently scrutinizing data and video footage from the leak before authorizing any future spacewalks. Meanwhile, Roscosmos flight controllers and NASA external station camera views have confirmed that the leak has ceased, leaving only residual coolant droplets visible.
The cause of the ammonia coolant leak is still under investigation. This incident marks the third instance of a coolant leak in Russian ISS equipment within the past year, following similar leaks in a Soyuz spacecraft and a Progress spacecraft. The Soyuz leak was so severe that the crew had to return to Earth in a replacement spacecraft.
Despite the leak, both NASA and Roscosmos officials have emphasized that the ISS’s operations remain unaffected. However, the delay in the U.S. spacewalk has impacted minor maintenance activities on the station, as well as a critical test in support of future moon exploration.
The postponed spacewalk was supposed to involve collecting samples to determine the presence of microorganisms on the ISS’s exterior. Additionally, it aimed to replace a high-definition camera on the station’s port truss to prepare for operations related to the Gateway, a planned lunar orbiting station.
Moreover, the delay has also affected a significant milestone – the second all-woman spacewalk, which was scheduled for later this month. The spacewalk would have marked a momentous occasion for gender equality in space exploration.
To address the coolant leak and ensure the safety of operations aboard the ISS, the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, intends to dispatch two cosmonauts on a spacewalk on October 25. This spacewalk will involve inspecting the radiator, installing a radar for Earth observation on Nauka, and launching a student nanosatellite.
As investigations into the cause of the Nauka coolant leak continue, the delay showcases the constant vigilance required in ensuring the safety of astronauts and the smooth functioning of space missions. While setbacks are inevitable, NASA and Roscosmos remain committed to addressing, resolving, and learning from these incidents as they pursue their ambitious space exploration goals.
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