NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins on a spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Saturday, March 13, 2021. (NASA via AP)

NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins on a spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Saturday, March 13, 2021. (NASA via AP)

Spacewalkers take extra safety precautions for toxic ammonia

The International Space Station’s external cooling system may have leaked onto the astronauts

Spacewalking astronauts had to take extra safety precautions Saturday after possibly getting toxic ammonia on their suits from the International Space Station’s external cooling system.

Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins had no trouble removing and venting a couple of old jumper cables to remove any ammonia still lingering in the lines. But so much ammonia spewed out of the first hose that Mission Control worried some of the frozen white flakes might have gotten on their suits.

Hopkins was surprised at the amount of ammonia unleashed into the vacuum of space. “Oh yeah, look at that go. Did you see that?” he asked flight controllers. “There’s more than I thought.”

Even though the stream of ammonia was directed away from the astronauts and the space station, Hopkins said some icy crystals may have contacted his helmet. As a result, Mission Control said it was going to “be conservative” and require inspections.

The astronauts’ first suit check found nothing amiss. “Looks clean,” Hopkins called down.

NASA did not want any ammonia getting inside the space station and contaminating the cabin atmosphere. The astronauts used long tools to vent the hoses and stayed clear of the nozzles, to reduce the risk of ammonia contact.

Once the ammonia hoses were emptied, the astronauts moved one of them to a more central location near the NASA hatch, in case it’s needed on the opposite end of the station. The ammonia jumper cables were added years ago following a cooling system leak.

As the nearly seven-hour spacewalk drew to a close, Mission Control said the astronauts had already spent enough time in the sunlight to bake off any ammonia residue from their suits. Indeed, once Glover and Hopkins were back inside, their crewmates said they could smell no ammonia but still wore gloves while handling the suits.

The hose work should have been completed during a spacewalk a week ago, but was put off along with other odd jobs when power upgrades took longer than expected.

Saturday’s other chores included: replacing an antenna for helmet cameras, rerouting ethernet cables, tightening connections on a European experiment platform, and installing a metal ring on the hatch thermal cover.

Eager to get these station improvements done before the astronauts head home this spring, Mission Control ordered up the bonus spacewalk for Glover and Hopkins, who launched last November on SpaceX. They teamed up for back-to-back spacewalks 1 1/2 months ago and were happy to chalk up another.

“It was a good day,” Glover said once back inside.

Although most of their efforts paid off, there were a few snags.

The spacewalk got started nearly an hour late, so the men could replace the communication caps beneath their helmets in order to hear properly. A few hours later, Glover’s right eye started watering. The irritation soon passed, but later affected his left eye.

Then as Glover wrapped up his work, a bolt came apart and floated away along with the washers, becoming the latest pieces of space junk.

“Sorry about that,” Glover said. “No, no, it’s not your fault,” Mission Control assured him.

It was the sixth spacewalk — and, barring an emergency, the last — for this U.S.-Russian-Japanese crew of seven. All but one was led by NASA.

Space

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The board is planning a 2021 festival no matter the conditions, they are going to make it work! (BCMF directors Buddy Thatcher (from left), Kristen Boulier, Rose Clark, Jeff Gray, Corissa McNeilly and Jayme Kennedy (front), and her hair. (photo submitted)
Bella Coola Music Festival planning on 2021 fest

The BCMF is planning for a 2021 festival on July 17 and 18, however it may look.

The Lost Lake trail is a popular hike for locals and visitors for it's accessibility (Khya Saban photo)
LETTER: Lost Lake trailhead trees shouldn’t be cut down

The area is slated to be cut by the Bella Coola Community Forest

Easter is on Sunday, April 4, 2021. How much do you know about Easter history and traditions? (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz about Easter and its traditions

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

Most Read