Skip to comments.Space Station's Air Leak Mystery Deepens
Posted on 01/09/2004 11:54:34 AM PST by blam
Space station's air leak mystery deepens
Equipment looks fine; no immediate danger, NASA says
NASA astronaut Michael Foale and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri celebrated New Year's Day on the space station, then were notified Monday that the air pressure was slowly dropping.
By Marcia Dunn
The Associated Press
Updated: 1:05 p.m. ET Jan. 09, 2004CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - An air purifier that was the prime suspect for a cabin leak at the international space station turned out to be airtight Friday as the crew widened the search for the mystery leak.
The cabin pressure continued to slowly fall as flight controllers in both the United States and Russian debated what to do next. One plan, not yet finalized, would have the two men on board, Russian cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri and NASA astronaut Michael Foale, closing the hatches on individual compartments one at a time in an attempt to isolate any potential leaks.
Mission Control stressed that even though the pressure was now down to 14.0 pounds per square inch, it was still safe for the crew and station operations. The threshold, however, for equipment failure not all equipment, just some is 13.9 pounds per square inch.
The normal air pressure aboard the space station is 14.7 pounds per square inch, a level not present up there since before Christmas.
Flight controllers zeroed in on the Russian carbon-dioxide removal unit earlier this week as the source of the pressure decay, but Kaleri found nothing wrong with it Friday. The system was more or less reported to be airtight, Mission Control reported.
Kaleri checked other environmental systems on the Russian side of the space station and nothing was found to be leaking.
The next step, probably this weekend, will have Kaleri and Foale sealing off the docked Russian cargo ship and then the Russian air lock and then the American air lock, to gauge any pressure changes.
Space station managers are meticulously going through the list of equipment that is susceptible to falling pressure, Mission Control said. Its possible that the main item in question a monitor for air contaminants could be simply turned off in order to preserve it once the pressure reached 13.9 pounds per square inch.
Engineers do not believe a repressurization would be necessary before Sunday or Monday.
No immediate danger
In emphasizing the lack of immediate danger, Mission Control noted that the current level of 14 pounds per square inch is equivalent to the atmospheric pressure in Oklahoma City. There are plenty of places on Earth where people live with much lower air pressure, Mission Control said, citing Las Vegas at 13.6 pounds per square inch, Denver at just over 12 pounds per square inch, and Mexico City at less than 12 pounds per square inch.
Foale, the commander, and Kaleri are supposed to remain on board until the end of April. They arrived in October as the eighth set of full-time residents.
NASA has reduced the number of space station residents from three to two for the foreseeable future because of the grounding of the shuttle fleet in the wake of the Columbia disaster. Russian spacecraft are simply too small to deliver all the necessary supplies and spare parts.
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That sounds like the most reasonable answer.
But where to put the tape?
Hmmm, maybe these people can help out.
IIRC, the Apollo era pressure was 5 psi. Probably had to boost it in order to provide an environment that a relatively
non-select portion of the population could get in to space [aboard US craft].
Bloating in females, comes to mind. (Maybe I should say brain swelling comes to mind, first?)
I think it was a "safety" design. That pressure could be maintained long enough for the donning of pressure suits if the capsule acquired 0.5" hole.