Astronauts find no leak in US module of space station

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have returned to the US module after determining that an ammonia leak alert was a false alarm.

NASA (via Twitter as @NASA)
NASA tweeted this image of the International Space Station on Jan. 14, 2015.

Crewmembers on the International Space Station have now been allowed into the U.S. segment of the orbiting outpost, after a false alarm caused astronauts to evacuate that part of the station early Wednesday (Jan. 14).

The alarm could have indicated a possible leak of toxic ammonia into the station's cabin; however, NASA has found no evidence of a leak. NASA astronauts Terry Virts, Barry "Butch" Wilmore and European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti re-entered the U.S. side — which include the European, Japanese and U.S. station modules — wearing masks at about 3:05 p.m. EST (2005 GMT). Cristoforetti and Virts took samples of the station's air and found no ammonia, according to NASA.

"The crew is in good condition, was never in any danger and no ammonia leak has been detected on the orbital laboratory," NASA officials wrote in an update.

NASA officials were worried that the space station's cooling system — which uses ammonia to help regulate temperatures on the station — could have been leaking the noxious gas into the station's atmosphere. [Inside the International Space Station (Infographic)]

Virts, Cristoforetti and Wilmore joined cosmonauts Elena Serova, Alexander Samokutyaev and Anton Shkaplerov in the Russian segment for much of the day after the alarm sounded at about 4 a.m. EST (0900 GMT). Because there is no sign of ammonia in the cabin, the crewmembers should be allowed to take of their masks and roam freely through all parts of the station, according to NASA.

Officials now think that the false alarm may have been caused by an error in a computer used to beam information to and from the space station. The computer, called a multiplexer-demultiplexer, now seems to be in good shape after officials turned the device off and on again, NASA officials said.

Mission Controllers are still working to understand exactly what set off the alarm, but work for the astronauts should continue as normal on Thursday (Jan. 15). NASA officials will now take steps to re-activate a cooling loop powered down because of the alarm.

NASA officials do not think that the research on the station was negatively impacted because of the evacuation.

The false alarm Wednesday was the third of its kind to occur in the more than 15 years crews have lived on the space station. Crewmembers have been forced to evacuate the U.S. side of the outpost, taking refuge in the Russian side, two other times due to a false ammonia alarm, NASA spokesman Rob Navias told Space.com via email.

Rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts have continuously manned the International Space Station since 2000. The station has the approximate living space of a five-bedroom house.

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.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.