Astronauts complete rare Christmas Eve spacewalk


by Andrew Horansky / KHOU 11 News

Posted on December 24, 2013 at 7:14 AM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 25 at 11:29 AM

HOUSTON -- NASA conducted a delicate spacewalk on Tuesday to fix a cooling system on the International Space Station (ISS).

Every step of it aired on the Internet and at Rice University, physics professor David Alexander was watching.

“You have to be precise, you have to follow the manuals, and the astronauts are very well trained to do that,” he said.

Their rare, high-stakes Christmas Eve mission marked the second spacewalk in just four days to repair an ammonia pump. It broke down earlier this month and officials said repairs were critical.

They also said they would have been made yesterday, had water not leaked into one of the astronaut’s suits on Saturday while he was outside the ISS.

NASA said the astronaut was never in danger and that it was not related to what happened in July, when an Italian astronaut nearly drowned when water leaked into his helmet.

Professor Alexander believes it all underscores the risks of space work.

“Anything that goes wrong could cost the life of an astronaut and so that means that meticulous nature of the work and the deliberate nature of what they’re doing is very important,” he said.

The Tuesday spacewalk lasted for several hours and the problem appeared to be patched.

According to NASA it marked the agency’s second spacewalk on a Christmas Eve. The other was in 1999 when astronauts serviced Hubble.