Spacewalking astronauts on March 13 had to take extra safety precautions after they possibly got toxic ammonia on their suits from the International Space Station’s external cooling system. According to AP, astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins had no trouble removing and venting a couple of old jumper cables. However, ammonia spewed out of the first hose that Mission Control worried some of the frozen white flakes might have gotten on their suits.
The stream of ammonia was directed away from the astronauts and space station, but Hopkins said that some icy crystals may have contacted his helmet. Following the incident during the cleaning of the external cooling system, Mission Control said that it was going to “be conservative” and required inspections. The US space agency NASA also did not want any ammonia getting inside the ISS and contaminating the cabin atmosphere.
According to reports, the astronauts had used long tools to vent the hoses and stayed clear of the nozzles in a bid to reduce the risk of ammonia contact. Once the hoses were emptied, the astronauts then moved one of them to a more central location near the hatch. Mission Control said that the astronauts had already spent enough time cleaning any ammonia residue from their suits. The cremates also said that they could smell no ammonia once Glover and Hopkins were inside, but they also added that the two astronauts still wore gloves while handling the suits.
It is worth noting that ammonia jumper cables were added years ago following a cooling system leak. The hose work should have been completed during a spacewalk last week, but was put off along with other jobs when power upgrades took longer than expected. Further, Saturday’s other chores including replacing an antenna for helmet cameras, rerouting ethernet cables, tightening connects on a European experiment platform and installing a metal rig on the hatch thermal cover.
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