Skip to main content

Christmas Eve spacewalk for repair job ends

By Jethro Mullen, CNN
updated 2:54 PM EST, Tue December 24, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: NASA: The spacewalk has concluded, lasting 7 hours and 30 minutes
  • The astronauts are trying to fix a problem on the International Space Station
  • A malfunctioning pump in the station's cooling system needed to be replaced
  • It's the second Christmas Eve spacewalk in history, NASA says

(CNN) -- While many people spent Christmas Eve doing last-minute shopping, two American astronauts had a more challenging matter to attend to Tuesday.

In orbit more than 200 miles above Earth, flight engineers Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins embarked on a spacewalk Tuesday morning to repair part of the International Space Station's cooling system.

The spacewalk ended at 2:23 p.m. ET Tuesday and lasted 7 hours and 30 minutes, NASA said.

More than four hours into the job, the two astronauts had successfully bolted a replacement ammonia pump module into its location and were working to connect lines to allow the ammonia to flow, NASA said in a tweet.

There was a slight kink in the work when one of the fluid lines tangled. The astronauts untangled it, but when they did, the line released some ammonia flakes that landed on their space suits.

It was not a leak, but some residue, NASA spokesman John Ira Petty said. The ammonia that landed on the spacesuits will require the spacewalkers to air out their suits before going back into the station, but is otherwise not a big deal, he said.

The two engineers were carrying out the second in a series of expeditions needed to replace a malfunctioning pump, which circulates ammonia through loops outside the station to keep equipment cool.

Space suit problem delays spacewalk
NASA delays emergency spacewalk
This week in space
NASA posted this snap of astronaut James H. Newman on November 20, 1998, to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the International Space Station. NASA posted this snap of astronaut James H. Newman on November 20, 1998, to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the International Space Station.
Out-of-this-world photos from Nasa's Instagram
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
>
>>
Photos from NASA\'s Instagram Photos from NASA's Instagram

The pump developed problems December 11 when an internal valve stuck in an incorrect position. The space station's life support system remains up and running, but operations were cut back as a result of the problem, NASA said.

It is the second Christmas Eve spacewalk in history, according to NASA.

The two astronauts spent about 5½ hours outside the space station Saturday working to remove the problematic pump.

Spacesuit problem

Mastracchio used a different spacesuit after a small amount of water leaked into the cooling system of the one he wore Saturday.

NASA said the issue with the suit, which happened at the end of the spacewalk, was unrelated to a problem experienced in July when water pooled in an Italian astronaut's helmet, causing a spacewalk to be cut short.

"Both Mastracchio and Hopkins reported dry conditions repeatedly throughout Saturday's activities and the two were never in danger," the agency said.

NASA had installed new safeguards, including snorkels inside the spacesuits that would allow astronauts to take breaths if water formed and they had to return to the space station.

Tuesday's spacewalk was the 176th to support the space station's assembly and maintenance, according to NASA.

The previous Christmas Eve spacewalk took place in 1999, the agency said, when Discovery astronauts Steve Smith and John Grunsfeld spent more than eight hours refitting parts of the Hubble Space Telescope.

The others on board the International Space Station at the moment include Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Tyurin, Sergey Ryazanskiy and Oleg Kotov and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata.

CNN's Ashley Corum, Ralph Ellis and John Zarrella contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Space
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
solar flare july 2014
From Earth, the sun appears as a constant circle of light, but when viewed in space a brilliant display of motion is revealed.
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
The full moons of this summer -- July 12, August 10 and September 9 -- are supermoons, as NASA calls them.
updated 11:51 AM EDT, Sun June 29, 2014
If you think you saw a flying saucer over Hawaii, you might not be crazy -- except what you saw didn't come from outer space, though that may be its ultimate destination.
updated 9:47 PM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
The U.S. space shuttle program retired in 2011, leaving American astronauts to hitchhike into orbit. But after three long years, NASA's successor is almost ready to make an entrance.
updated 10:21 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
When I first poked my head inside Virgin Galactic's newest spaceship, I felt a little like I was getting a front-row seat to space history.
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
The sun is putting on a fireworks show again.
updated 7:02 PM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
A year is a very long time on Mars -- 687 days. NASA's Curiosity rover can attest that it's enough time for some unexpected life changes.
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Thu May 8, 2014
It's hard to describe billions of years of cosmic history. But scientists have used a code to create a model of how the universe as we know it today might have evolved.
updated 2:00 PM EDT, Fri May 2, 2014
At least one corner of the solar system may be serving up an ice-and-water sandwich, with the possibility of life on the rocks.
updated 11:03 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Planetary nebula Abell 33 has taken on romantic proportions.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Tue April 8, 2014
You can't see it happening on Earth, but space itself is stretching. Ever since the Big Bang happened 13.8 billion years ago, the universe has been getting bigger.
updated 4:59 PM EDT, Wed March 26, 2014
Scientists have added another celestial body to the short list of objects in our solar system that have rings around them.
updated 1:59 PM EDT, Thu March 27, 2014
Astronomers have discovered a dwarf planet that's even farther away than Pluto.
updated 7:59 AM EST, Fri February 28, 2014
Our galactic neighborhood just got a lot bigger. NASA announced the discovery of 715 new planets.
updated 10:37 AM EDT, Tue March 18, 2014
Scientists have made a breakthrough in understanding how our world as we know it came to be.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue February 25, 2014
From a sheep ranch in Western Australia comes the oldest slice of Earth we know.
updated 2:02 PM EST, Wed February 19, 2014
Cassiopeia A was a star more than eight times the mass of our sun before it exploded in the cataclysmic, fiery death astronomers call a supernova.
updated 5:07 PM EST, Mon February 10, 2014
Researchers have found clues that water could be flowing in the present, at least during warm seasons.
updated 11:02 AM EST, Sat February 15, 2014
The "jelly doughnut" rock that seemed to appear out of nowhere on Mars last month did not fall out of an extraterrestrial pastry box.
updated 10:56 PM EST, Thu February 6, 2014
It's a dot in the sky.
updated 2:44 AM EST, Thu February 13, 2014
Reports of Jade Rabbit's demise may have been premature.
updated 8:58 AM EST, Thu January 16, 2014
It's rare for astronomers to spot a planet in a star cluster. That's partly why a cluster called Messier 67 is so special: We now know that it has three planets orbiting stars.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT