The first of a series of spacewalks to repair a $2 billion cosmic ray detector was completed at the International Space Station. Luca Parmitano from the European Space Agency and NASA‘s Andrew Morgan performed the spacewalk in 6 hours 39 minutes on November 15, 2019, in an extravehicular activity (EVA) described as the most complex since the repair of the Hubble Space Telescope in 2011.
The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, designed to look for evidence of dark matter and antimatter in space, experienced a failure in two of its four cooling pumps. The instrument, made with a 3-year shelf life, was not intended to be repaired on space, imposing significant challenges on the crew since it is mounted on top of the starboard truss of the ISS.
The mission started at 1139 GMT with Parmitano and Morgan switching their suits to battery power and exiting the station’s Quest airlock. As Parmitano rode to the AMS on the Canadarm2 robotic arm controlled by NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, Morgan took the tools to the work area.
Parmitano, using tools designed to hold the screws and washers in place, loosened the 13 fasteners, freeing the debris shield from the AMS. The debris shield. Hence, to Morgan, who jettisoned it back to Earth? The 9-kilogram shield was too large to be brought to the station for disposal; therefore, it was released at an angle back to earth where it would burn up on reentry. The shield drifted away at 1417 GMT, two and a half hours into the spacewalk.
The duo then installed handrails, which will be used in future spacewalks. They also removed an insulation cover initially shielded by the debris shield, completing the tasks of the first spacewalk in about 4 hours. The two then embarked on tasks slated for the second EVA, with Parmitano removing the insulation covering the AMS cooling tubes and Morgan releasing the cover overboard. To sum up the walk, Parmitano and Morgan cleared access to the cooling tubes by removing a spacer and prepared to replace a data cable. They then cleaned up and headed back, ending the walk at 1818 GMT.
The next spacewalk will take place on November 22, 2019. During the second walk, the astronauts will cut the tubes connected to the malfunctioning pumps in preparation for the installation of the new system. The third and fourth spacewalks are yet to be scheduled.
This post was originally published on Food and Beverage Herald