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ISS Ammonia Leak Prompts Emergency Spacewalk

International Space Station photographed by Expedition 27 crew member Paolo Nespoli from the Soyuz TMA-20 after undocking, image released May 9, 2013.
The International Space Station crew is preparing for an emergency spacewalk Saturday to fix an ammonia coolant leak from the orbiting laboratory.

The space station's commander, Canadian Chris Hadfield, described the leak Friday as a "serious situation," but one that has been stabilized by the six-member crew. He said on his Twitter account that two American astronauts, Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn, are getting their space suits ready to go outside the spacecraft to find the source of the leak and fix it.

The U.S. space agency NASA said the crew was not in danger and that the station otherwise continues to operate normally.

Space station crew members reported the leak Thursday, with Hadfield describing the problem for the spaceship's ground controllers at NASA's command center in Houston, Texas.

"Houston — Station: ... I was just talking with Tom and Chris who sounds like they can back up completely what they saw, a very steady stream of flakes or bits coming out of... then rotating towards the... as the truss is rotating, so... we're just waiting to rotate now in order to get a decent view out of the gym."

NASA says the rate of ammonia escaping has increased since it was first reported, but adds that the station is functioning normally.

Ammonia is used to cool the station's power systems that provide electricity to the station. NASA says it is working to reroute other power to maintain full operation of solar arrays. NASA says the leaking array could be shut down.

The station had a similar leak last year, but it is not clear whether this leak is from the same source.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.


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