Construction workers in space: A spacewalk November 1 will attempt to find and repair a coolant leak that could force a power reduction at the station.
A slight 1.5-pound-per-year leak in the channel 2B cooling system has been present since 2007 and during a shuttle visit last year, two spacewalking astronauts added eight pounds of ammonia to the reservoir to boost it back up to a full 55 pounds. The plan at that time was to top off the system every four years or so to “feed the leak,” replacing the lost ammonia as required.
But over the past few months, engineers saw the leak rate suddenly quadruple, either because something changed at the original leak site or, more likely, because another leak developed somewhere else in the system.
Whether the leakage was caused by space debris or a component failure of some sort is not yet known. But the result is: If the leak continues at its current rate, the coolant will drop below a 40-pound safety limit and the system will shut down by the end of the year or shortly thereafter, taking power channel 2B down with it. While the space station can operate without the full complement of power channels, the loss of channel 2B would force flight controllers to power down equipment, eliminating redundancy and reducing the amount of research the crews could carry out.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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