An “unexplained leak” on the International Space Station has sent liquid spitting into space.
A torrent of particles could be seen shooting out from the back of a Russian capsule docked at the station. This capsule was meant to bring a crew back to Earth — and it’s still unclear what the status of that trip is, NASA said.
The incident began when two cosmonauts were about to begin a routine spacewalk, which had to be canceled as flight controllers investigated the issue.
The fluid spray, which was visible in NASA’s live video feed as a torrent of snowflake-like particles emanating from the rear part of the Soyuz MS-22 capsule, was described by a NASA commentator as a coolant leak.
Nasa has said that none of the seven current International Space Station (ISS) crew members – three Russian cosmonauts, three American Nasa astronauts and one Japanese astronaut – have ever been in danger.
NASA said the US and Russian space agencies “will continue to work together to determine the next course of action following ongoing analysis.”
The accident happened just as two of the cosmonauts, Crew Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineer Dimitri Petelin, were in suits and preparing for a planned spacewalk to move a space heater. one module to another on the Russian segment of the ISS.
A Russian mission control operations official near Moscow was overheard telling Prokopyev and Petelin in a radio transmission that their spacewalk was canceled while engineers worked to determine the nature and origin of the leak.
Nasa commentator on the livestream Rob Navias, broadcasting from Nasa’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, also said the spacewalk was canceled due to the leak, which he said began around 7:45 p.m. local Eastern time.
Navias said the Soyuz spacecraft arrived at the space station in September, bringing Prokopyev, Petelin and US astronaut Frank Rubio to the ISS, and remained tethered to the Earth-facing side of the orbiting lab.
The spacewalk scheduled for Wednesday was postponed once before, in late November, due to faulty cooling pumps in the cosmonauts’ spacesuits, Navias said.
The spacewalk was to be the 12th this year to the ISS and the 257th in the 22-year-old platform’s history for assembly, maintenance and upgrade work, according to Nasa .
Navias said it was too early to know what implications the leak might have on the integrity of that spacecraft, and whether it might pose any challenges for the crew’s return to Earth at the end of their mission.
Five other spacecraft are stationed at the space station – two SpaceX capsules (a Crew Dragon and a Cargo Dragon), a Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter and two Russian supply ships, Progress 81 and Progress 82.
The ISS, which spans the length of an American football field and orbits approximately 250 miles above Earth, has been permanently manned since 2000, operated by a US-led partnership and Russia which includes Canada, Japan and 11 European countries.