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Sunita Williams embarks on seventh spacewalk to find ammonia leak

Houston, Nov 2 (): Record setting Indian American NASA astronaut Sunita Williams with the help of another Japanese cosmonaut Akihiko Hoshide on Friday fixed a leak in ISS’s cooling system, completing the main objective in six-hour marathon excursion outside orbiting lab.

Sunita Williams and Akihiko Hoshide yesterday ventured outside space station at 1759 IST (1229 GMT) and just after a little more than five hours, they had spotted some coolant leak lines and connected a spare radiator, after separating the leak.

“Sunita and Akihiko, congratulations to both of you,” Mike Fincke, NASA astronaut, who helped the astronauts to walk through the tasks from the mission control at Johnson Space Center agency in Houston, said. “We accomplished everything we have set to fix today. Congratulations to all guys on ground for making this together,” Sunita responded.

All the eight huge solar panels in the space station have its own related power system and ammonia circulation helps to cool this down. The leak was first observed in 2007 by NASA and the partners of the space station. It has potential to disturb any one of the power channels if it is not fixed.

The spacewalk scheduled today was a crucial stage and the process was scheduled to last for about 6 ½ hours, but the process proceeded over the schedule. Both astronauts re-entered space station by 0128 hrs IST through its airlock. Officially, the spacewalk was over by nine minutes later.

During the spacewalk, Sunita and Hoshide rejiggered few lines in the spoilt coolant system and fitted a spare radiator.

The officials of NASA hope this process stops the leakage, which they are unsure that it may be caused from old radiator. If the leakage was not stopped and ammonia remains to escape, station’s operators would eventually have to do something else.

The officials said there will not be any urgency for new fix, as spare radiator might provide sufficient ammonia to maintain coolant system functioning till next October. There is no surprise in the task accomplished by Sunita Williams and Akihiko Hoshide today, as both of them have become experienced space walkers.