Astronauts have virtually swung the space station during their spacewalk
Emergency situations occur during almost every spacewalk. Gennady Padalka and Michael Fincke have recently confirmed the unpleasant tendency. They walked in space for the third time in over a month. The working program at the international space station was rather routine this time. Astronauts had to prepare the docking module of the Russian segment for the arrival of the European cargo spacecraft. They also had to replace a part of equipment installed on the outside of the station and repair a cable of one of television cameras. The space orientation system of the International Space Station has become a source of problems again.
Astronauts walked into space several minutes ahead of the scheduled time, they were working rather fast. Padalka and Fincke did not stop working even when the ISS went into the Earth's shadow. Usually astronauts have to make a break at such moments. A mysterious malfunction occurred several minutes later. The telemetric contact with Earth cut and astronauts could contact the Mission Control only through voice communication. The communication was restored only in 20 minutes.
As it turned out, astronauts have virtually swung the space station during their spacewalk. The station preserves the continuous orientation with the help of rotating devices, which balance the heavy station with their inertia. Spokesman for the Mission Control Vladimir Solovyov said Padalka and Fincke were working very actively and disturbed the station's position in space. The international space station started turning, rotating devices failed to resist the movement and went off. The incident did not jeopardize the astronauts' lives, but it cut the telemetric connection with the Earth. The movement also displaced the signal-transmitting antenna and lost contact with the communication satellite. The connection was restored several minutes later, when engines of the Russian Zveda module put the station back in the needed position and turned rotating devices on again.
There was nothing dangerous for astronauts, although it was obvious the situation was extremely nerve-racking for Mission Control officers. Vladimir Solovyov said it was the first time, when such an emergency situation occurred in open space. Engineers will have to look into the matter in detail to investigate the reasons of the temporal malfunction. It seems unbelievable the two astronauts have made the giant space station veer off its usual orbit.
The history of spacewalks of the ISS crew has become mystified, as if space dislikes Padalka and Fincke. During their first two spacewalks the astronauts repaired the rotating devices, which caused the 20-minute nightmare on Earth. At first it turned out there was a problem with the American spacesuit, which was meant for the Russian astronaut – the men eventually worked in Russian spacesuits. Another strange situation happened later with Michael Finck. He incorrectly regulated the spacesuit injector, the pressure dropped in it and the spacewalk had to be stopped. It became possible to repair the rotating device only on July 1st, after several months of training, preparations and spacesuit repairs.
The brief radio communication problem, however, did not stop the works. It was originally planned the two astronauts would spend six hours repairing the equipment, but the men managed to finish in 4 1/2 hours. Now they are waiting for another big task. Progress M-50 is scheduled to dock the international space station on August 14th.