The residents of the International Space Station today conducted the first ever two-man spacewalk without a crewmember inside, but the planned five and a half hour-spacewalk to support technology experiments and prepare for a future visit from a cargo vehicle was cut short by a cooling system problem with one of the two crewmembers' Russian Orlan suits.
The spacewalk by Expedition 8 Commander Mike Foale and Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri was proceeding smoothly and problem-free for almost three hours until Kaleri reported that drops of water were beginning to form inside his helmet visor and that his suit temperature was a little warm. Within minutes, Russian flight controllers reported an apparent failure of the system that provides cooling for Kaleri's suit. Initially, Russian suit specialists surmised that the problem existed with the suit's sublimator device, which provides cooling and dehumidifying capability and directed the crew to end the spacewalk. Despite the problem, Kaleri was never in any danger and suit temperatures never rose to uncomfortable levels.
Back inside the Pirs Docking Compartment from which the spacewalk was staged, Foale removed his suit after Pirs was repressurized so he could conduct an inspection of Kaleri's suit.
Foale quickly detected a kink in one of the tubes in Kaleri's liquid cooling garment that provides the flow of water throughout the suit. The kink was straightened out and water began to flow once again normally in Kaleri's suit.
Earlier today, after configuring systems, closing module hatches and buttoning up the Station in the unlikely event a problem would prevent them from returning inside, Foale and Kaleri depressurized Pirs and opened the hatch to begin their spacewalk at 3:17 p.m. CST (2117 GMT). It was the first time the Station had not been occupied during a so-called "extravehicular activity". U.S. and Russian technical teams had worked for months on procedures to insure the safety of the crew and the complex and reviewed all contingencies to mitigate possible risks with no one inside to respond to potential problems.
All Station systems operated flawlessly in their autonomous configuration during the abbreviated spacewalk.
Once outside the Pirs, Foale and Kaleri quickly set up tools and tethers to guide them during the spacewalk that was focused on the exterior of Zvezda. Their first task was the replacement of a cassette container on the Docking Compartment airlock housing sample materials for the study of the harsh effect of long-duration exposure of those materials to the space environment. Foale replaced one of two similar cassettes housed on the outside of Zvezda as the spacewalk drew to a premature close.
Foale and Kaleri then removed one of two suitcase-size pallets of Japanese experiments from a bracket on Zvezda and moved a similar experiment package to that bracket. The Micro-Particle Capturer and Space Environment Exposure Devices (MPAC / SEEDS) had been in their current location since October 2001 when they were first installed outside Zvezda to measure micrometeoroid impacts on material specimens.
Moving smartly through their tasks, Foale and Kaleri turned their attention to the installation of a Russian experiment called "Matryoshka" onto handrails outside Zvezda. The "Matryoshka" is a torso-like device housed in a container comprised of material simulating human tissue. It is designed to collect data on the absorption of radiation by crews living aboard the Station for long periods of time.
As Foale and Kaleri completed their work to install the Matryoshka, Kaleri reported his suit problem, at around 6 p.m. CST (0000 GMT).
Foale completed the installation of Russian material science experiment container on the Zvezda Service Module as Kaleri made his way back to Pirs. He and Foale closed the hatch to Pirs at 7:12 p.m. CST (0112 GMT) bringing the spacewalk to a close after 3 hours, 55 minutes.
It was the 52nd spacewalk in support of Station assembly and maintenance, the 27th staged from the Station itself, the fourth for Foale in his career and Kaleri's fifth.
Once they are back inside the Station's living quarters, the crew will reopen all of the hatches and prepare the Station for regular operations. Foale and Kaleri are scheduled for several days of off-duty time through early next week.
Information on the crew's activities aboard the Space Station, future launch dates, as well as Station sighting opportunities from anywhere on the Earth, is available on the Internet at:
Details on Station science operations can be found on an Internet site administered by the Payload Operations Center at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., at:
The next ISS status report will be issued as events warrant.