Subscribe

Chemical leak scare prompts astronauts to abandon part of space station

An alarm – possibly false – indicating toxic levels of ammonia has prompted astronauts to evacuate the US module of the International Space Station.

  • close
    Astronauts on the U.S. side of the International Space Station (seen here) were evacuated to the Russian segment of the orbiting outpost on Jan. 14, 2015 after an alarm that could indicate an ammonia leak sounded on the station. There is no hard evidence pointing to an actual ammonia leak at this time, however.
    NASA
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

An alarm suggesting a potentially toxic ammonia leak on the International Space Station early Wednesday (Jan. 14) forced astronauts to evacuate the U.S. side of the orbiting lab, but NASA says there is no proof such a scary leak actually occurred. It might have beeen a false alarm.

The station's six-person crew, which includes two Americans, three Russians and an Italian astronaut, took refuge in the station's Russian-built segment, isolating themselves from modules built by NASA, Europe and Japan due to the leak alarm at 4 a.m. EST (0900 GMT). NASA astronauts Barry "Butch" Wilmore, Terry Virts and European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti are all "safe and in good shape" with their Russian crewmates, NASA spokesperson Rob Navias said during a NASA TV update today (Jan. 14).

Flight controllers for the International Space Station have not found any hard data showing proof of an ammonia leak. Isolating the crew in the Russian segment with cosmonauts Elena Serova, Alexander Samokutyaev and Anton Shkaplerov is a precautionary measure, Navias stressed during the broadcast.

"The data that is being analyzed by flight controllers here in Houston at the moment is increasingly more indicative of a sensor issue or computer relay data issue of some sort, but not a leak itself," Navias said.

"Outstanding news," Wilmore said when astronaut James Kelly radioed the news from Mission Control in Houston. "Great work, and we'll be ready to do what you need us to do when the time comes."

The alarm was triggered by an increase in pressure in the water loop for one of two redundant space station cooling systems, Navias said. That pressure change could have been indicative of an ammonia leak.

Mission Controllers are now working to make sure that the U.S. side of the station is safe before allowing crewmembers to roam through all modules of the International Space Station. Ammonia is a toxic substance that can cause major health problems if breathed in. The crew will probably remain in the Russian segment for at least the rest of their day, but they have more than enough food to provide for all six crewmembers, Navias said.

The space station has approximately the same living space as a five bedroom house and has been continuously occupied by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts since 2000.

Follow Miriam Kramer @mirikramerFollow us @SpacedotcomFacebook and Google+. Original article onSpace.com.

Copyright 2015 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK