Astronauts plug leak, fin­ish fix­ing detector

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NATION & WORLD - By Mar­cia Dunn

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Spacewalki­ng astronauts plugged a leak in a cos­mic ray detector out­side the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion on Satur­day, com­plet­ing a se­ries of com­plex re­pairs to give the in­stru­ment new life.

The $2 bil­lion Al­pha Mag­netic Spec­trom­e­ter could re­sume its hunt for elu­sive an­ti­mat­ter and dark mat­ter by mid­week.

Team mem­bers around the world ex­pressed re­lief as NASA’s An­drew Mor­gan and Italy’s Luca Par­mi­tano wrapped up work on the spec­trom­e­ter. It was their fourth and fi­nal space­walk since Novem­ber to re­vive the in­stru­ment’s crip­pled cool­ing sys­tem.

“Con­grat­u­la­tions the AMS pump sys­tem is now leak tight,” tweeted the Euro­pean Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Nu­clear Re­search, or CERN, which helps run the spec­trom­e­ter.

Mis­sion Con­trol cau­tioned it was too soon to de­clare suc­cess with the space sta­tion’s premier sci­ence in­stru­ment, but noted “It still has a good heart­beat.”

Last month, Mor­gan and Par­mi­tano in­stalled new coolant pumps on the spec­trom­e­ter. They went back out Satur­day to check for any leaks in the plumb­ing.

Par­mi­tano quickly dis­cov­ered a leak in one of the eight coolant lines — the first one he tested — and tight­ened the fit­ting.

“Our day just got a lit­tle more chal­leng­ing,” Mis­sion

Con­trol ob­served.

The line still leaked after a manda­tory one-hour wait, and Par­mi­tano tight­ened it again. Fi­nally, suc­cess — the leak was gone.

“Let us all take a breath,” Mis­sion Con­trol urged. By then, the astronauts were al­ready half­way into their six-hour space­walk.

Mis­sion Con­trol ac­knowl­edged the leak added some un­wanted “drama” to the space­walk.

“Ev­ery­body’s hearts stopped,” Mis­sion Con­trol told the astronauts.

NASA

This photo shows the view from NASA’s An­drew Mor­gan’s hel­met cam as Ital­ian as­tro­naut Luca Par­mi­tano works out­side the space sta­tion dur­ing a space­walk Satur­day.

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