Spacewalks are no easy feat, especially when there’s a $2 billion piece of equipment that needs fixing. The equipment in questions was the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) aboard the ISS, which astronauts Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano were tasked with fixing.
The AMS was a joint effort by CERN, NASA and a variety of other institutions which is used to help scientists study and better understand dark matter, antimatter and missing matter from the outside of the International Space Station (ISS). However, a faulty coolant pump rendered the piece of equipment useless, meaning scientists were no longer receiving valuable insight into the nature and quantity of dark matter.
Top story: @Astro_Christina: ‘Congratulations to teams around the world on the repair of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer on the @Space_Station! Back to studying the fundamental physics of our universe thanks to years of… pic.twitter.com/Aqsg4iALCH, see more https://t.co/eIPP4yW4ZU
— Mark K2EXE Scrano (@k2exe) January 28, 2020
Repairs on the AMS started last month with a series of spacewalks. Morgan and Parmitano installed a new coolant pump by cutting into stainless steel pipes to reach the degraded coolant pumps and revive the cooling system, all while wearing bulky space gloves in a zero-gravity environment.
On the next spacewalk, which took place this past weekend, Parmitano checked for any other leaks, which he managed to find and repair. Finally, the duo of astronauts had to cover the AMS with thermal insulation to further protect it from the harsh environment of space.
NASA has described this spacewalk as: “The most complicated since the Hubble Space Telescope repair missions a few decades ago.” According to NASA, if everything goes according to plan and all systems check out, the AMS could be back up and running as soon as next week.