Merry Christmas! Astronauts Conduct Emergency Repairs On ISS Cooling System

By Joelle Renstrom | Published

spacewalkUnless his flying reindeer are truly amazing, like Falcor, Santa probably doesn’t make it to space. Or maybe he does, and that’s actually where he is the other 364 days of the Earth year. A galactic sleigh would have come in pretty handy at the ISS this Christmas, as astronauts had to attend to an emergency situation that led to a holiday spacewalk. You know, to take in all the lights.

I mean, they’re not decorating the tree, making a holiday dinner, or getting drunk on eggnog, so why not?

American astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Michael Hopkins have gotten to walk in space twice in the past four days. Today’s was the second Christmas Eve spacewalk ever. Is there a best day for a spacewalk? I think I’d like to do it on New Year’s Day, maybe. I probably wouldn’t enjoy an emergency spacewalk at any time, though, and that’s what these were. NASA helpfully tweeted along the way and provided a video feed.

The ISS cooling system started malfunctioning on December 11, which forced the shutting down of all nonessential equipment. It’s kind of like the government shutdown, brought about by a stubborn cooling loop. The problem was identified as a faulty ammonia-circulating cooling pump. On Saturday, Mastracchio and Hopkins retrieved the malfunctioning pump, and they spent today installing the new one. The mission was a success, so no Gravity scenarios here.

I was pretty psyched that this was happening, as it makes much more interesting Christmas Eve entertainment than the usual fare. There was a somewhat scary moment when the fluid lines got tangled and the astronauts were sprayed with ammonia, but a spokesman for NASA says that, as long as Hopkins and Mastracchio air out their suits, they should be fine. Mastracchio is wearing a different suit than he wore for Saturday’s walk because of a water leak in that suit’s cooling system. Apparently, spacesuits now have snorkels in them, just in case (I’m not kidding).

Y’all sure do know how to party up there. Merry Christmas, astronauts!