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Cooling pump fails on International Space Station; six-man crew OK

By John Zarrella and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 2:12 PM EST, Thu December 12, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NASA says the space station and crew were never in any danger
  • A cooling pump shut down after hitting a temperature limit
  • An emergency spacewalk could be necessary, but it's too soon to tell

(CNN) -- NASA scaled back operations on the International Space Station on Wednesday after discovering a problem with a cooling system.

A pump on one of the station's two external cooling loops shut down after hitting a temperature limit, NASA said.

Teams worked to get the cooling loop back up and running, NASA said. Experts suspect a malfunctioning valve may have caused the problem, but they're still trying to figure out how to fix it.

The station and crew aboard were never in any danger, NASA said.

Officials could determine that an emergency spacewalk is the best way to fix the failed pump -- something they've done in the past.

The crew of the space shuttle Atlantis took this picture of the International Space Station after leaving it in July 2011. Atlantis was the last shuttle to visit the station, which was first launched in 1998 and built by a partnership of 16 nations. The crew of the space shuttle Atlantis took this picture of the International Space Station after leaving it in July 2011. Atlantis was the last shuttle to visit the station, which was first launched in 1998 and built by a partnership of 16 nations.
International Space Station
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Photos: International Space Station Photos: International Space Station

NASA said Thursday that there has been no decision on the spacewalk, and it may be a couple of days before the decision is made, according to Kenny Todd, the ISS mission management team chairman.

The external cooling loops are systems that circulate ammonia outside the station to keep equipment cool.

International Space Station Fast Facts

Officials discovered the malfunctioning loop was producing too much ammonia Wednesday morning, NASA spokesman Josh Byerly said.

Teams have shut down some noncritical systems on the station as a result of the problem, NASA said.

The space station's life support system is still up and running.

The current mission of the space station, officially called Expedition 38, is scheduled to go until March 2014.

The six-person crew consists of NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio of the United States; Russians Mikhail Tyurin, Sergey Ryazanskiy and Oleg Kotov; and Koichi Wakata of Japan.

CNN's Drew Iden contributed to this report.

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