Spacewalk

Astronaut Rick Mastracchio performs a space walk outside the International Space Station on Saturday. Mastracchio and Michael Hopkins ventured out of the station to try to revive a crippled cooling line.

AP Photo/NASA

JOHNSON SPACE CENTER — NASA astronauts conducted an urgent spacewalk Saturday to begin repairs on a damaged cooling line that has forced the shutdown of noncritical systems on the International Space Station.

Outfitted with improvised snorkels and absorbent pads to protect against potential spacesuit leaks, Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins stowed away the faulty coolant pump to make room for its replacement during the five-and-a-half-hour mission.

From inside the station, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata operated the station’s massive robotic arm for assistance.

It was the first U.S. spacewalk since July, when a water leak in Luca Parmitano’s suit put the Italian astronaut in danger of drowning in his helmet.

A smoke alarm going off caused some added tension during Saturday’s spacewalk. However, it was determined to be a false alarm, and there were no problems reported with the spacesuits during the spacewalk, but Mastracchio’s original suit was compromised when he inadvertently turned on a water switch in the air lock at the end of the excursion.

The next spacewalk to fix the cooling system, originally scheduled for Monday, has been pushed back until Tuesday in order to prepare a spare suit. If necessary, a third spacewalk will be conducted. A time and date has not been selected.

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