CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Astronauts in orbit and on the ground practiced Monday for a major repair job later this week at the International Space Station, struck by a massive cooling system failure.
The weekend malfunction knocked out half of the space station’s cooling system, forcing the crew of six to turn off unnecessary equipment and halt scientific work to avoid any overheating.
NASA’s space station program manager, Mike Suffredini, ranked the problem as one of the most serious in the 12-year history of the orbiting lab, but stressed the outpost could keep going indefinitely given the current situation. The fear is that the second cooling loop could shut down at any moment and leave the station in precarious shape.
Two of the Americans on board – Douglas Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson – will venture out on a spacewalk to replace the pump Thursday. A second spacewalk will be needed to finish the job, probably Sunday.
A pair of astronauts in Houston took to a giant swimming pool Monday afternoon to rehearse the repair procedures.