This Saturday, March 13, 2021, American astronauts going into outer space had to take extra precautions due to the possibility of toxic ammonia getting on their suits from the external cooling system of the International Space Station.
The spacewalk took 6 hours and 47 minutes. During the fifth spacewalk of the year outside the International Space Station, two astronauts successfully completed missions to maintain the station’s cooling system and communications. They successfully vented an early ammonia system, relocated one of its jumpers, and serviced the Columbus Bartolomeo payload platform, including routing three of the four cables at the Payload Position (PAPOS) interface and setting up a cable for the amateur radio system.
Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins easily removed and removed a couple of old jumper cables to remove the ammonia still in the wires. But a huge amount of ammonia escaped from the first hose – so much that Mission Control feared that some of the frozen white flakes might end up on their suits.
Astronauts were surprised by the amount of ammonia thrown into the vacuum of space, he even checked with the controllers if they saw such an amount. Despite the fact that the flow of ammonia was directed in the other direction, the astronauts worried that some ice crystals might touch their helmets. As a result, the Mission Control Center said they would be “conservative” and require checks.
The first check of the cosmonauts’ suits did not reveal anything superfluous. NASA did not want ammonia to get inside the space station and pollute the cockpit atmosphere. The astronauts used long tools to ventilate the hoses and stay away from the nozzles to reduce the risk of ammonia exposure.
After four hours of the planned six-hour spacewalk, the astronauts have already spent enough time in the sunlight to burn off the remnants of ammonia on their spacesuits, and that everything should be fine when they get back inside.
However, an unrelated issue arose shortly thereafter when astronaut Victor Glover complained of eye irritation. He said his right eye was watery, but quickly reassured Mission Control that blinking seemed to help.
After the ammonia hoses were emptied, the astronauts moved one of them to a more central location next to the hatch, in case it was needed, at the opposite end of the station. Ammonia bridges were added many years ago after a leak in the cooling system.
The hose job was supposed to be completed during the spacewalk a week ago, but was delayed along with other odd jobs when the power upgrade took longer than expected.
Other Saturday work included replacing the antenna for the cameras on the helmet, re-routing Ethernet cables, tightening connections on the European experimental platform, and installing a metal ring on the thermal manhole cover.
Saturday’s spacewalk began almost an hour later than scheduled. Before leaving, the astronauts had to replace the communication caps under the helmets in order to hear. It was the sixth spacewalk and, with the exception of an emergency, the last for this US-Russian-Japanese crew of seven. All but one exits were led by NASA.