Two American astronauts successfully made their Christmas Eve spacewalk to fix the cooling system of the International Space Station.
It was their 2nd spacewalk in four days and only the second spacewalk made during Christmas Eve. The first Christmas Eve spacewalk was made on 1999 during a Hubble Space Telescope repair mission.
Astronauts Michael Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio successfully repaired the malfunctioning cooling system in seven and a half hours. They replaced the 780-pound ammonia pump whose control valve failed two weeks ago.
The duo started their repair mission Saturday and removed the faulty cooling pump and on Christmas Eve, the fresh pump was successfully installed.
Astronaut Hopkins rode a robotic arm of the space station while clutching the new pump with both hands while the Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata maneuvered the robotic arm from inside the space station towards the spot where it will be installed.
Then, Hopkins slid the pump in. Mastracchio helped push the pump into its slot and the duo affixed it in place.
“Mike Hopkins taking a special sleigh ride on this Christmas Eve,” Mission Control commentator Rob Navias said as the space station soared over the Pacific.
After installing the refrigerator-size pump, electrical connections and fluid connections followed. A jumpstart was made to the newly installed pump’s connections.
Further checks were made before they declared the new pump fully functional.
NASA said full reintegration of the new pump to the space stations cooling system is expected to be completed by the next day.
Koichi Wakata, the Japanese astronaut from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency who orchestrated the spacewalk from inside the space station’s Destiny Laboratory, will be the commanding officer of the International Space Station in March 2014. He will be the first Japanese to become so.
Earlier this month, Wakata had the first unscripted conversation with Kiboro, the first humanoid talking robot in space. Kiboro can only talk in Japanese. The talking robot is part of the long-range plan to develop a robot that could be a good companion to an isolated human.