By Kerry SHERIDAN
Miami (AFP) May 23, 2017
Two US astronauts successfully completed Tuesday what NASA described as a "critical" spacewalk to repair a failed piece of equipment that helps power the International Space Station.
"We have declared victory," NASA commentator Rob Navias said about two hours into the emergency spacewalk by space station commander Peggy Whitson, 57, and flight engineer Jack Fischer, 43.
The reason for the outing was the sudden breakdown on Saturday of a computer relay box known as a multiplexer-demultiplexer (MDM) unit.
The MDM -- which is about the size of a small microwave oven and would weigh 50 pounds (23 kilograms) on Earth -- helps operate solar arrays, electrical power generation, and robotic equipment at the ISS.
It also regulates the operation of radiators and cooling loops.
Since there are two MDMs at the orbiting outpost, the loss of one did not jeopardize the lives of the crew or bring a halt to station operations.
Still, a space agency spokesman described Tuesday's mission as a "critical contingency spacewalk" and called it a "high priority" to replace the failed box as soon as possible.
- Quick fix -
During the shorter than normal spacewalk -- which lasted just two hours and 46 minutes, much less than the typical 6.5 hours -- Whitson took the lead and replaced the MDM.
After she took out the malfunctioning unit, she spotted some flakes of debris, and returned briefly to the airlock for equipment to clean the area before installing the new box.
"We now have two healthy MDMs," Navias said afterward.
Fischer, making the second spacewalk of his career, installed a pair of antennas on the US Destiny Laboratory module to enhance wireless communication capability for future spacewalks.
It was unclear what caused the MDM to fail.
The unit had just been installed in March during a spacewalk by Whitson and Expedition 50 commander Shane Kimbrough.
Nor was it the first time an MDM unit failed.
"A similar MDM replacement spacewalk was conducted in April 2014 by Expedition 39 crewmembers Steve Swanson and Rick Mastracchio of NASA," the US space agency said.
- New record for Whitson -
Whitson is the most experienced woman spacewalker in the world, and during the spacewalk she leapt to third place for the most time spent doing spacewalks.
She now has a total of 60 hours, 21 minutes over 10 career walkabouts in space.
The world record holder for spacewalking is Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev, who completed 16 spacewalks totaling 78 hours, 21 minutes.
In second place is Spanish-American astronaut Mike Lopez-Alegria, who has done 10 spacewalks totaling 67 hours and 40 minutes.
Tuesday's spacewalk was the 201st in support and maintenance of the ISS.
The $100 billion football-field sized orbiting laboratory has been continuously occupied by global astronauts since 2000.
Houston TX (SPX) May 22, 2017
SpaceX is scheduled to launch its Dragon spacecraft for its eleventh commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station June 1 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center's historic pad 39A. Dragon will lift into orbit atop the Falcon 9 rocket carrying crew supplies, equipment and scientific research to crewmembers living aboard the station. The flight will deliver investigations and faci ... read more
Space Tourism, Space Transport and Space Exploration News
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement|