Thursday, January 2, 2014

Astronaut-Hams Fix ISS Cooling System

Two American astronaut-hams repaired the International Space Station's cooling system during a dramatic Christmas Eve spacewalk, replacing a failed ammonia pump. According to Newsline, astronauts Mike Hopkins, KF5LJG, and Rick Mastracchio, KC5ZTE, each took two spacewalks as part of the repair mission -- removing the faulty pump on December 21st and installing a new one on the 24th. The astronauts were outside the station for more than seven hours, in part because an ammonia fluid line sent frozen flakes of the substance right at them, with some sticking to their spacesuits. They had to wait until the ammonia on their suits dissipated before re-entering the station, to avoid possible contamination.

Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, KC7HNZ
(US Air Force Photo)
In a related story, the ARRL Letter reports that former astronaut Susan Helms, KC7HNZ, has renewed her interest in amateur radio, regaining both her license and her callsign, which she'd allowed to expire in 2005. Helms, a Lieutenant General in the Air Force, is now the senior officer at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Her interest reportedly was reignited by an activity hosted by the Satellite Amateur Radio Club, W6AB, for Scouting's 2013 Jamboree on the Air. During a tour on the International Space Station in 2001, Helms used NA1SS for the first ARRL Field Day operation from space.