After an alarm prompted the evacuation of crew members from the US segment of the International Space Station – out of fear that there might have been a gas leak – NASA authorities have now confirmed that the evacuated crew members are safe in the Russian segment of the ISS and no gas leaks have been confirmed.
Going off at 4 a.m., the alarm indicated that an ammonia leak was in progress, forcing the Expedition 42 crew members to put on gas masks and seal off themselves within the Russian segment of the ISS. Here they were allowed to take off their masks.
But a check by NASA indicated that there was no ammonia leak, and the US segment relatively safe. Flight controllers fear the false alarm could either have been triggered by a faulty sensor, a pressure spike a water loop for thermal control systems, or a computer relay switch.
“The space station crew is safe,” NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs said. “We saw an increase in water loop pressure, then later saw a cabin-pressure increase that could be indicative of an ammonia leak in the worst case scenario, so we protected for the worst case scenario and isolated the crew is the Russian segment of the space station while the teams are evaluating the situation.”
As at 6:02 a.m., the Johnson Space Center in Houston and the ISS relayed communications that indicated none of them is “entirely convinced this is an ammonia leak.” However, flight controllers continue to gather more evidence into what could have happened to trigger off the alarm signal, and whether this was just a faulty sensor.
There are provisions to last a whole week for the entire crew at the Russian segment of the ISS, and the US might likely have to spend the remaining part of the day and night there in the enclave.
Roscosmos, the Russia’s space agency confirmed that a “leak of harmful substances from the cooling system” necessitated the crew to isolate the American module. “The crew is safe and is in the Russian segment now,” it said in a statement. Mission control experts in Moscow and Houston are collaborating to ensure the crews’ safety and ascertain or correct what actually went wrong.
The space outpost is manned by NASA astronauts Barry Wilmore and Terry Virts, Russians Elena Serova, Alexander Samoukutyaev and Anton Shkaplerov and European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.