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ISS NASA

Astronauts Fix Phantom Space Station Ammonia Leak 54

Posted by Soulskill
from the didn't-need-to-eject-the-warp-core dept.
astroengine writes "During an unscheduled spacewalk on the space station's exterior on Saturday morning, NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn and Chris Cassidy carried out the mother of all plumbing jobs: They detached a suspect ammonia pump, replaced it with a spare and watched for any further ammonia leakage. The emergency spacewalk was carried out in response to a troubling ammonia coolant leak that was discovered on Thursday. The coolant is used to maintain the temperature of the vast solar arrays the space station uses to generate electricity for its systems. 'It will take some diagnostics, still, over the course of the next several days by the thermal systems specialists to fully determine that we have solved the problem of the ammonia leak," said NASA commentator Rob Navias during the live NASA TV spacewalk broadcast. 'But so far, so "good."'"
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Astronauts Fix Phantom Space Station Ammonia Leak

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  • by cachimaster (127194) on Saturday May 11, 2013 @03:02PM (#43697023)

    Meet him once, he's awesome, very humble and funny in person. There is a documentary about him even before he became an astronaut. He certainly have the right stuff.

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by loufoque (1400831)

      Too bad he couldn't teach you about grammar ;)

    • by tyrione (134248)
      Agreed.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why is he a hero? Did he save an old lady from being crushed to death by an out of control semi? Did he save a baby from a fire? Did he perform an emergency tracheotomy with a ballpoint pen that allowed someone to not asphyxiate? Did he donate one of his kidneys to someone that would die without a transplant? Did he find the cure for cancer, AIDS, ALS, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's ?

      While he may be very competent at what he does, that hardly makes him 'a hero', sorry. We should really quit this deification, it's

      • by demachina (71715) on Saturday May 11, 2013 @08:00PM (#43698941)

        There has been massive hero inflation in recent years. Heroes have been devalued to the point you need a train load of heroes to save a little old lady from an out of control semi.

        Not sure if the devaluation was due to 24/7 news networks, unscrupulous policians or social networks. Probably some of each.

        • by kermidge (2221646)

          There has been inflation of many erstwhile useful terms - diva, icon, mega this and that, ditto mini, micro, and nano. Hero is I think one of the worse offenders. Its overuse removes accuracy, utility, relevance, and respect.

          Another usage that grinds my teeth is the adding of an "s" to -craft, as in aircraft, spacecraft, watercraft. While it may be the usual evolution of language in action it still hits me sideways.

          And yes, the writing on Discovery, mentioned below, has gone downhill; writing in most pub

      • by baegucb (18706) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @01:47AM (#43700485)

        Two Bronze stars as a Navy SEAL might qualify him. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Cassidy [wikipedia.org]

        • by Coren22 (1625475)

          I have more respect for him as a SEAL than the two Bronze Stars, those aren't all that hard to earn after all.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bronze_Star_Medal [wikipedia.org]

          Cassidy is an honor graduate of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training (BUD/S) Class 192. He was awarded the Bronze Star with "V" device and the Presidential Unit Citation for leading a 9-day operation at the Zhawar Kili cave complex – a national priority objective directly on the Afghan/Pakistan border during Operation Enduring Freedom. Cassidy was a guest speaker at the USNA Combat Leadership Seminar (2003 & 2004). He was awarded a second Bronze Star for combat leadership service in 2004 during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.[1]
          Chris Cassidy is also the 500th person in space. He achieved this by being the designated crew member by the rest of his crew mates, during the STS-127 mission.[7] He is also the second SEAL to fly in space following William Shepherd, a veteran of four prior missions.

          I suppose it depends on what that service was, but still, a pretty exemplary person.

      • Well, AC, you done it. I was going to use up my mod points, but you made me think. Dang it!

        I mostly agree with you. People doing their jobs shouldn't be touted as heroes. It's just stupid.

        BUT - anyone who helps in even small ways to get us, humanity, into space, are all greater or lesser heroes to me. If you want to become my greatest all time hero, all you need to do is make a very fast, very comfortable, efficient, cheap spaceship that can take me anywhere I might wish to go in the solar system withi

  • Imagine a day (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Saturday May 11, 2013 @03:04PM (#43697033)

    Imagine a day when a ship springing a leak would have been international news, commented upon by the wise and witty. Now imagine a day when such an event was too commonplace for even the crew to comment upon it around the watercooler.

    That day will come.

    • Simmons, you can't write it up in the incident report as an "ammonia leak" when you miss the evacuation pipe. If you can't hold it in use the gelatin, man. We've all got to breathe this air dammit. You just bought a replacement scrubber cartridge.
    • I really hope so, bro. Given the short-sightedness of some on this planet, it seems like it will be a while until that "day" will actually come.

  • Phantom? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sylvandb (308927) on Saturday May 11, 2013 @03:14PM (#43697091) Homepage Journal

    We have a phantom space station now?

    Or was it a space station phantom leak?

    I wonder where/why Discovery came up with "phantom" ? Really poor editing, Discovery!

    • The Discovery writer got confused and thought the replacement pump check for leaks post-swap was referring to the original leaking pump pre-swap. No doubt they'll fix it any second now....

    • by Megahard (1053072)

      It was a phantom menace. That's why they had to fix it right away.

    • Re:Phantom? (Score:5, Funny)

      by itsdapead (734413) on Saturday May 11, 2013 @03:50PM (#43697267)

      Or was it a space station phantom leak?

      Pro-tip for astronauts: If the ISS computer suggests another spacewalk to put back the original part so they can wait to see if it fails... watch your back!.

  • by ThePeices (635180) on Saturday May 11, 2013 @03:32PM (#43697173)

    This is why having humans onboard beats robotics. An event like this on an unmanned craft could be crippling. With humans onboard, it was quickly found and fixed.

    Though it is only a question of time before robotics will be dexterous and smart enough to go out and replace a broken module like what just happened. In the meantime, Humans +1 | Robots +0.

    • by pehrs (690959) on Saturday May 11, 2013 @04:10PM (#43697377)
      If you remove the humans you can also remove the large, heavy and complex life support systems they need. The life support systems are a major consumer of power on the ISS, and a reason they have so many solar panels that can fail, as well as a constant source of small and large breakdowns in itself.

      In the end it is a matter of what you want to do with the spacecraft. Unmanned spacecraft are cheap and reliable. Manned craft are a little more flexible, but expensive and unreliable. Even with the ability to repair stuff humans have they are hampered by the lack of tools and spare parts in space, so it's very unlikely that manned spacecraft will ever be as reliable as the simple robotic probes.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        If you remove the humans you can also remove the large, heavy and complex life support systems they need.

        The human robot is the most intricate and complex robot we have.

        1. It can fix other robots
        2. It can diagnose failures
        3. It can adapt to unknown situations
        4. It can describe what it sees using descriptive words
        5. It can work cooperatively
        6. There is no shortages of humans or highly skilled volunteers ready to go to space.

        The system that broke had nothing to do with life support. If it broke on robotic spacecraft, that s

      • In the end it is a matter of what you want to do with the spacecraft. Unmanned spacecraft are cheap and reliable. Manned craft are a little more flexible, but expensive and unreliable.

        Unmanned spacecraft are cheap and reliable? Not really. We've had plenty of accidents. Keep in mind that up to the year 2000, the US, Soviet Union, and Japan had launched 43 probes to Mars and 13 were successful. That's a 30% success rate. Not all that hot.

        In 2012 dollars, we've spent 12.5 billion--with a B--dollars on Mars exploration. And we've learned a lot. Now, we'll say that a manned mission costs 1000x that, or 12.5 trillion--with a T. The interesting question is, would we learn 1000x more ab

        • by kermidge (2221646)

          Good info, good question - would we learn 1000x more.

          "But are they "better" than manned exploration? No."

          And that's the thing - we won't know until humans go there to answer it. I suppose, did we wait long enough, say, fifty to a hundred years, with robotic missions every few years, with increasingly robust packages for sampling and analysis, it might reach a point that sending humans to Mars will require a purpose other than exploration.

          (for the grammar nazis, yeah, too many commas; sorry, I tend

      • by Nivag064 (904744)

        Simply having a manned station where people have to maintain things under space conditions, and react successfully to unexpected problems - is a necessary learning experience that is required, if we are ever to be successful in space.

        If Mankind is to survive and proper in the long term, we have to have a viable population that can thrive off planet.

        The ISS also does useful science, which is a bonus.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 11, 2013 @04:13PM (#43697405)

      This is why having humans onboard beats robotics.

      On the other hand we've dumped robots on Mars, flung them around the Moon and shot them far out into the depths of the solar system for decades without having to worry about food, water, or suicide due to sheer boredom.

      The right tool for the right job and all that.

    • This is why having humans onboard beats robotics. An event like this on an unmanned craft could be crippling. With humans onboard, it was quickly found and fixed.

      Though it is only a question of time before robotics will be dexterous and smart enough to go out and replace a broken module like what just happened. In the meantime, Humans +1 | Robots +0.

      Just ignore the prejudice in those comments, "beats robotics", "unmanned craft", "smart enough". :-(
      It's Okay, Robonaut2, I still love you. [nasa.gov]

    • by delt0r (999393)
      Of course if there was no fragile meat bags on board, we wouldn't need all these systems that keep breaking down in the first place. And if the few remaining systems did break down, well it won't kill anyone either.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This reminds me of Mir. I liked Mir on some level because it seems like the first example of a rundown ship. Mold, leaks, fires. It was gritty, dirty and dangerous but they figured out how to make it work. IMHO, Mir was the first example of this particular kind of ship that we had seen in sci-fi for decades.

    Of course I'd rather be on a clean, well-run ship; but in the real world there are all levels. Let's hope the ISS has a like-new remodel or a replacement before it gets a little too Mir-like.

    • There were lots of grungy spacecraft in Bruce Stirling's Schismatrix stories, which were published before Mir got off the ground. It's one of those rather obvious details that writers rarely bother to address, or assume will have been taken care of in some manner. For another example, I was just reading a story in an anthology which deals with the aftermath of an alien takeover of Earth; the hostiles take care of humanity simply by removing our ability to read. No jet fighter dogfights or cylinders/tripo

      • I can't remember the particular author - probably someone like Eric Frank Russell - who made the reasonable assumption that spacemen who slacked on critical housekeeping would tend to end up dead.
    • by ikaruga (2725453)

      Mir was the first example of this particular kind of ship that we had seen in sci-fi for decades

      Until I see unwanted Alien contamination I would refrain from saying that.

  • I bet they'll have to go out next to replace that defective AE-35 unit.

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