If all else fails, hit it with a hammer…

Or, as I was tempted to title this post, “Floating in a tin can…”  ANYhoo… 

Having eventually fixed the toilet in the US segment, last weekend [31 July] the crew of the International Space Station were forced to reduce power, and suspend scientific experiments, when half their cooling system suddenly shut down.

Trouble arose on Saturday night when one of the two ammonia-fed cooling loops shut down, triggering alarms throughout the ISS.

The two ammonia lines ensure that all the station’s electronic equipment does not overheat.

Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson set in motion equipment shutdown procedures and, with crewmate Douglas Wheelock, installed a jumper cable to keep all the rooms cool.

The Global Positioning System circuit, several power converters and a set of devices that route commands to various pieces of equipment were switched off.

Two of the four gyroscopes – part of the space station’s pointing and navigating system – were initially shut down but the crew installed a jumper cable to bring up a third gyroscope, leaving the station in a much more stable position, AP says.

Flight controllers tried to restart the disabled ammonia pump early on Sunday but the circuit breaker tripped again.

Here’s a Nasa statement on the loss of the cooling loop.

The first of three planned space walks to replace the failed ammonia pump took place on Saturday.  But it was only partially successful.  As the short AP report notes

Space station astronauts didn’t make much progress during Saturday’s urgent spacewalk. The crew had to hammer loose a stuck connector. Then, an ammonia leak erupted. In the end, Douglas Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson were unable to remove the ammonia coolant pump that failed last weekend.

NASA originally estimated two spacewalks would be needed to replace the failed pump. After Saturday’s trouble, managers say three will now be necessary. The next spacewalk won’t be attempted until Wednesday at the earliest. Engineers need to figure out the next step.

And here’s a NASAtelevision clip of that first attempt to fix the problem during an 8 hour 3 minute space walk – the longest expedition crew spacewalk in history and the sixth longest in human spaceflight history.  With a stunning backdrop, astronaut Doug Wheelock applies a tried and tested engineering technique to an uncooperative ammonia line. [Adds: To cheers from Mission Control]

As the latest BBC report notes

Next time the two astronauts will have to remove the failed unit and move a 355kg (780lbs) spare unit about 10m (30ft) in order to insert it into the gap.

The ammonia fluid lines will then have to be connected.

If the second of the two cooling units were to fail – said to be a highly unlikely scenario – then the astronauts would no longer be able to cool most of the components.

The crew would not be in immediate danger, however, as they could move to the Russian segment of the ISS, which has its own cooling system.

“Far above the world…”

, , , , , , , ,

  • Pigeon Toes

    “If all else fails, hit it with a hammer…”
    Mechanical engineer in charge?

  • JAH

    Can they not switch it off and switch it on again?

  • lamhdearg

    if all else fails abandon ship and let it float around up there with the rest of mankinds space waste, Pete please inform me what this space station contributes to life on earth.

  • joeCanuck

    If the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems look like a nail, said some wag.

  • joeCanuck

    Sounds like they tried that. A lot of electronic problems can be fixed that way. But don’t just switch off, you’ll probably have to pull out the plug too and wait at least 40 seconds to let any residual charge on capacitors leak away, or to allow an overheated component to cool down.

  • Alias

    With all the budget cutbacks, they probably couldn’t afford the call-out charge for a plumber.

  • magnus

    Once again proving the supremacy of the rocket technician over the rocket scientist. Rocket science is quite easy, what goes up comes down, but rocket engineering brings you home safely.

  • Oracle

    Okay I have a major problem with this NASA video I think it stinks of skullduggery…..

    for the first 2mins 40 sec the picture quality is absolutely garbage, as in dogshite standard in dire need of a pooper scooper.
    Now there’s a reason for that which I will come too later!

    At 2minutes 50secs the picture quality is perfect not just of the Earth but of the struts and support cages of the craft, look for yourself it’s crystal clear the whole view and distance.

    So when you switch back to the darkened area of work the picture is heavily grained and noisey and of extremely poor quality even at just 5 feet from the camera.
    Any bog standard digital camera would have taken vastly superior images to these let alone the million dollar camera equipment on board.

    These outward viewing pictures have been deliberately distorted and grained at source and I can think of only one reason for doing so.

    I’ll not state my reason just yet i’ll wait to see if anyone else is thinking the same.

  • joeCanuck


    Don’t getting carried away by a conspiracy theory. My bog standard digital camera picture quality varies greatly between filming in light and in shade.

  • Oracle


    Really is that a fact…… but i wasn’t talking about camera phones …..away and spend between £100 and £200 and you’ll find that the digital will compensate and while the photo will be darker it won’t be grainy or noisey FACT

    Now Joe are you trying to imply that NASA have camera phones attached to the ISS….. now think about it please!!!!

  • joeCanuck

    I said nothing about a phone. And my camera did cost a good bit more that 100 quid. I upgrade every two years.

  • lamhdearg

    OK Oracle put us out of or misery, ps i cant bothered look at the video.

  • Oracle

    Lamhdearg you can slide to the 2.45 2.55 mark it will only takes seconds rather quite stark….

    maybe it’s me…. maybe NASA had the technology and money to put that up there and beam wonder pictures around the globe from the ISS but were skint for the cameras that face into space…..

    funny that the cameras rotate on the ISS but only show dire images when focusing in shaded areas that have no light source reflecting back .

    14secs in to 44 secs shows 2 astronauts in shaded area over 35-50 feet away in excellent clarity but it has a reflective source on the extendable solar panels which doesn’t reflect on the camera lens……

    1 min 15 secs in to 2 mins 45 secs shaded area 5 feet away heavily degraded grained….. unexplainable by normal means or rationale

    2 mins 50 secs wonder pics again showing excellent detail…..

    maybe i’m wrong wouldn’t be the first time but i need an explaination that is not easily refuteable

  • Oracle

    get a fuji then

  • Pete Baker


    “maybe i’m wrong wouldn’t be the first time but i need an explaination that is not easily refuteable”

    The tinfoil doesn’t work…

  • lamhdearg

    a yes oracle i see what you mean now,

  • lamhdearg

    can someone tell me what Oracle is on about.

  • Oracle

    LOL …… but i still require an explaination for the deliberately degraded video, that graining is deliberate WHY?

  • Oracle

    Lamhdearg why would the exact same cameras return such different quality when filming the shaded areas with no refletion source.

    i’ve watched loads and loads of these video clips and never noticed it before then it hit me like a sledge hammer

  • lamhdearg

    Is that it “deliberately degraded video,” F**k sake i thought the talk of conspiracy was big time as in proof that elvis was alive or somthing like that.

  • Pete Baker

    I’m not laughing, Oracle.

    If you have a conspiracy theory for your “deliberately degraded video” assertation, spit it out.

  • lamhdearg

    sorry Oracle i wrote 11.48 before i had read your 11.43, Your serious about this where as i am just taking the piss, Sorry.

  • Do you think it’s deliberately degraded to hide something (technology or whatever)? Or is the quality connected to interference with the download mechanism?

  • Oracle

    Okay this may or may not be a bit wacky but i’ll throw my tuppence worth at it.

    if the camera in the shaded zones (area shielded from light source) was clear it would clearly show the background…. are you still with me (with or without tinfoil hats)

    If it showed the background….. it would show stars scattered like dandruff on a black shirt, no clouds or light pollution getting in the way just deep black space speckled with tiny bright lights.

    **** and if it showed this it would confirm the Apollo footage was manufactuered and not original ****

  • Oracle

    lol no worry i swipe at loads on here…. i’m away to get fitted up for a tinfoil hat anyway

  • joeCanuck

    Ok Oracle.
    Take your fuji outside, point up and take a shot of the stars. Send it to Pete, and once he sees your stunning pic, I have no doubt he will show it to the rest of us.

  • “this may or may not be a bit wacky…”

    A little from column A (most images of planets and galaxies are artists impressions and you have to read the small print to realise, so creating images is not new for astronomy and space research), but a hefty chunk from column B (why bother faking it?).