CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Astronauts removed an old space station pump Saturday, sailing through the first of a series of urgent repair spacewalks to revive a crippled cooling line.
The two Americans on the crew, Rick Mastracchio and Michael Hopkins, successfully pulled out the ammonia pump with a bad valve – well ahead of schedule. That task had been planned for the next spacewalk, originally scheduled for Monday but now delayed until Tuesday, because of the need for a suit swap.
An early Christmas, observed Mission Control as Mastracchio tugged the refrigerator-size pump away from its nesting spot.
If Mastracchio and Hopkins keep up the quick work, two spacewalks may be enough to complete the installation of a spare pump and a third spacewalk will not be needed as originally anticipated.
Several hours after Saturdays spacewalk ended, Mission Control bumped spacewalk 2 to Tuesday to give Mastracchio enough time to prepare a spare suit. His original suit was compromised when he inadvertently turned on a water switch in the air lock at the end of Saturdays excursion.
NASA officials said Saturday night that its unclear whether a third spacewalk will be needed and when it might occur, if required. A third spacewalk had been slated for Wednesday before the latest turn of events. NASA requires a day off between spacewalks.