Astronauts Work to Repair Cooling System at the International Space Station

Astronauts Work to Repair Cooling System at the International Space Station

The heat wave may be moving to the International Space Station, as one-half of the cooling system unexpectedly shut down over the weekend, causing astronauts to act quickly to prevent overheating. According to Associated Press reporter Marcia Dunn, while Tracy Dyson performed the equipment shutdown procedures to keep equipment form overheating, Douglas Wheelock set up a jumper cable to keep rooms affected by the shut down cool. The astronauts are not in danger; however, there is no back up now that one of the two ammonia lines is shut down. The station has two spare ammonia pumps located on the outside of the station that will require complicated spacewalks later this week to replace the broken pump.

The International Space Station (ISS) has had its share of complications, problems and breakdowns since construction began in the late 1990s. In September 2004, problems with the Russian Elektron, which was used to generate oxygen for the space station, had caused it to shut down again. This had been an ongoing problem for the ISS, creating delays in future missions and continued construction. The computers on the ISS crashed in June 2007, affecting the station’s ability to produce oxygen again. However, it also affected the station’s ability to orient itself, remain in correct orbit, shift orientation to avoid debris and point its solar panels toward the sun. It took over four days to resolve the crash and get the computers back up and running. In November 2008, an automated docking system began to experience problems during the final phase of docking, requiring a cosmonaut to use a joystick to manually dock a cargo ship.

In the fall of 2007, power problems plagued the ISS, forcing astronauts on the Discovery, docked at the station, to extend their stay to repair the problems. A malfunctioning rotary joint, which keeps the ISS solar panels turned toward the sun, had to be kept in a locked position limiting the amount of energy that could be generated. At the same time, a ripped solar wing further decreased the station’s ability to generate power.

The International Space Station is much like a home and its appliances – – there are problems during the construction, and constant repairs are necessary to keep it in good condition and operating correctly. The breakdowns and problems have been repaired and construction continued in spite of them. However, one of the major problems, which the ISS faces today, is funds. Funds to complete all construction and to maintain the station will be a constant drain on the budgets of countries participating in the ISS.

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