Astronaut and Waterbury native Rick Mastracchio will be spending his Christmas holiday in a space suit repairing a failed coolant pump on the International Space Station.
“Have not looked out the window in 4 days. Too busy building space suits. Where did I put my gloves?” Mastracchio tweeted on December 17.
NASA has scheduled space walks on Dec. 21, 23 and 25, with each lasting approximately six and a half hours. Mastracchio and crewmate Mike Hopkins will remove the failed pump module, retrieve a spare pump module that is stowed on a platform outside the station, and then install the spare pump module to restore one of the station’s two cooling loops. The cooling loops circulate ammonia to keep the station’s equipment at a steady temperature.
The crew is not in immediate danger, but the station is now relying only on a single cooling loop without any redundancy. NASA decided restoring the second loop was important enough to delay a commercial cargo mission to the station until after the first of the year. This is not the first time a pump has failed – a similar issue required a similar repair effort in 2010. Astronauts also investigated a potential leak in the system in May, 2013.
NASA TV will cover the spacewalks live, with broadcasts beginning at 6:15 a.m. on all three dates.
Watch an interview with Mastracchio prior to launch: