Science

Astronauts begin spacewalk sequence to repair cosmic ray detector


Astronauts launched an awfully sophisticated sequence of spacewalks Friday to repair a cosmic ray detector on the Worldwide Area Station.

Armed with dozens of dissecting instruments, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano eliminated two protecting covers to achieve entry to the within of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. He handed them to his U.S. spacewalking companion, American Andrew Morgan, for tossing overboard.

“OK, 3-2-1, release,” Morgan stated as he let go of the 4-foot-long (127-centimetre) protect excessive above the Pacific.

Later, over the South Atlantic, Morgan ditched the second, smaller cowl. “Another great pitch,” Mission Management radioed.

These newest items of house junk pose no hazard to the orbiting lab, in response to NASA. The bigger protect ought to stay in orbit a yr or so earlier than re-entering the ambiance and burning up. The smaller one ought to re-enter in a couple of weeks.

NASA considers these spacewalks probably the most tough for the reason that Hubble Area Telescope repairs a couple of many years in the past. In contrast to Hubble, the spectrometer was by no means meant to bear house surgical procedure. After eight half of years in orbit, its cooling system is nearly lifeless.

Parmitano and Morgan will exit not less than 4 occasions this month and subsequent to revitalize the instrument. Their second spacewalk is subsequent Friday.

Delivered to orbit by Endeavour in 2011 on the next-to-last house shuttle flight, the $2 billion spectrometer is trying to find elusive antimatter and darkish matter.

It’s already studied greater than 148 billion charged cosmic rays. That’s greater than what was collected in over a century by high-altitude balloons and small satellites, stated lead scientist Samuel Ting, a Nobel laureate on the Massachusetts Institute of Know-how. He monitored Friday’s 6 1/2-hour spacewalk from Mission Management in Houston.

The large spectrometer — 16 toes by 13 toes by 10 toes (5 metres by Four metres by three metres), with a mass of seven half of tons (6,800 kilograms) — was designed to function for 3 years. By putting in 4 new and improved coolant pumps, the astronauts can preserve it working all through the lifetime of the house station, or one other 5 to 10 years. The alternative pumps arrived on the house station almost two weeks in the past, together with an assortment of latest instruments.

Parmitano, the lead spacewalker, and Morgan skilled extensively for the plumbing job earlier than rocketing into orbit in July. They hustled by means of Friday’s cowl removals and even obtained a bounce on future chores.

Subsequent week’s spacewalk will contain slicing by means of chrome steel tubes and splicing in connections for the brand new pumps, which just like the previous will use liquid carbon dioxide because the coolant.

In some respects, this work, 250 miles (400 kilometres) up, is even trickier than the Hubble spacewalks, stated NASA challenge supervisor Ken Bollweg. As earlier than, the stakes are excessive.

“Any time you do heart surgery you’re taking some risks,” Bollweg stated in an interview earlier this week.

Morgan is an emergency doctor within the Military — a bonus for this sort of intricate work. He’s making his first spaceflight.

For second-time station resident Parmitano, it marked his return to spacewalking following an in depth name in 2013. He nearly drowned when his helmet flooded with water from the cooling system of his spacesuit. Unable to speak due to the rising water, he managed to maintain his cool as he made his manner again to the protected confines of the house station.

Marcia Dunn, The Related Press

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