NASA engineers are working around the clock to firm up plans to send astronauts on two emergency spacewalks outside the International Space Station to repair a serious cooling system failure
The move comes after the weekend breakdown of a pump on the right side of the space station that pushes liquid ammonia through one of two cooling system loops that keep the outpost from overheating
The malfunction occurred late Saturday and forced astronauts on the station to shut down many systems and leave others just one glitch away from failure. The first spacewalk is set for Friday.
The space station's condition is currently stable. NASA officials stress that the station's second cooling system loop is working well and the crew is in no danger. But the space agency wants to fix the problem soon so the station crew can resume science experiments and other tasks that have been postponed until the pump can be replaced
"Folks are working hot and heavy to get everything ready," space station flight director Courtenay McMillan said
McMillan and her team had hoped to complete preparations in time to send American astronauts Douglas Wedlock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson outside the space station for the first repair spacewalk on Thursday morning. But they decided late Monday to wait until Friday, based on the results of practice dives in NASA's huge spacewalk rehearsal pool in Houston
That spacewalk would likely begin around 7 a.m. ET if all goes well