CAPE CANAVERAL — The Christmas Eve space walk planned by NASA at the International Space Station should wrap up repair work on a faulty cooling line.
Mission Control said Monday that unless something goes awry, two astronauts ought to finish installing a new ammonia pump today, during this second space walk. NASA originally thought three space walks might be needed.
Astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Michael Hopkins removed the faulty pump Saturday. Everything went so well, they jumped ahead in their effort to fix the external cooling line that shut down Dec. 11. A bad valve in the pump caused the breakdown, prompting the urgent series of space walk repairs.
The second space walk should have been Monday but was bumped a day so Mastracchio could swap suits. He inadvertently hit the water switch in the air lock after Saturday's space walk, and engineers suspect water entered his suit. The suit needs to dry out for at least a week before being used again, said flight director Judd Frieling.
Saturday's water intrusion is unrelated to helmet leakage that almost drowned an Italian spacewalker in July.
Two of the three Russian crew members, meanwhile, will conduct a Moscow-directed space walk on Friday to install cameras and fresh experiments. It was planned long before the U.S. cooling system ran into trouble.
NASA has conducted a Christmas Eve space walk only once before, during a Hubble Space Telescope repair mission in 1999.