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Astronauts Finish First Spacewalk to Fix Pump on ISS

Astronaut Rick Mastracchio holds the degraded pump module while the International Space Station's robotic arm guides the module to a grapple fixture. (Credit: NASA TV)
Two astronauts from the U.S. space agency completed their initial work faster than planned during a spacewalk outside the International Space Station, but a problem with a spacesuit has postponed the second spacewalk by one day.

The problem came up in the cooling unit of veteran astronaut Rick Mastracchio's spacesuit when he re-entered the ISS airlock. NASA says the problem is not related to a situation in July when a still-unexplained problem nearly drowned an Italian astronaut whose helmet filled with water during a spacewalk. Saturday's venture outside the orbiter is the first since then.

A second spacewalk that had been planned for Monday will now take place Tuesday (starting at 1210 UTC).

Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins removed a faulty ammonia pump Saturday while working outside the orbiter for more than five hours on Saturday. The faulty pump shut down part of the station's critical cooling system several days ago.

Work has progressed so well that a planned third spacewalk later in the week may not be necessary, if repair work can be completed Tuesday.

Saturday's venture outside the ISS was the 175th since the orbiter was first occupied 13 years ago.

The space station has been using a backup system for cooling internal and external equipment for several days. The problem with the pump has forced the astronauts to turn off all non-essential equipment, including some science experiments.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.