Two astronauts performed a spacewalk Tuesday, marking NASA’s first routine maintenance outside the International Space Station in more than a year.
American astronaut Reid Wiseman and German astronaut Alexander Gerst worked to move a broken pump into its proper storage location, a job that is long overdue reports ABC News.
U.S.-based spacewalks were halted in July 2013 after an Italian astronaut nearly drowned after his helmet flooded. NASA since solved the problem with the suit’s water-cooling system, making this spacewalk possible. Then concern came up over the spacesuit batteries.
New batteries arrived late September, clearing the way for Tuesday’s spacewalk and another one scheduled for next week.
The 780-pound pump moved on Tuesday comes out to about the size of a double-door refrigerator. It ended up in temporary storage during urgent spacewalking repairs to the station’s ammonia-cooling system last December. NASA didn’t want to waste time back in December putting the pump in the correct long-term location given the suit troubles.
“Wow, looks like we’ve almost got a full moon out here. It’s beautiful,” Wiseman said Tuesday. When the sunrise glow started to appear a few minutes later, he shared his excitement once more with Mission Control.
A follow-up spacewalk is scheduled for Oct. 15 to mark off further items on NASA’s expanding to-do list on hold since the 2013 close call. The spacewalk will be conducted by Wiseman once more and fellow American Butch Wilmore, a newcomer.
A week following that, two of the three Russians on board will perform a spacewalk on their country’s side of the orbiting post. The Moscow-led spacewalks were unaffected by NASA’s spacesuit problems.
NASA considered December’s U.S. spacewalks – to replace the failed ammonia pump and thereby restore full cooling to the space station – too important to be put on hold any longer. The same was true for a critical spacewalk in April by Americans to replace a dead computer.