The International Space Station is a complex thing. It’s a massive laboratory, living space, and observation platform all in one. But, like any machine, sometimes things break, and that means the scientists aboard the spacecraft have to perform delicate repairs, often while floating in the vacuum of space.
Among the objectives of recent ISS spacewalks, the crew has been attempting to fix a cosmic ray detector that was experiencing extended downtime as a result of a wonky cooling system. Now, after swapping out coolant pumps and double-checking everything, the instrument might finally be ready to power up one again.
The most recent spacewalk, which took place this past Saturday, tasked ISS crew members Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano with further work on the coolant pumps before giving the entire system a close inspection to ensure no further problems would arise.
As it turns out, the decision to double-check the system was a good one, as the spacewalkers discovered a leak that required further attention. With that repair wrapped up, the cosmic ray detector known as the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer should be ready to perform its duties once more.
The instrument, which carries a price tag of around $2 billion, is designed to detect dark matter, which could unlock some interesting secrets about the universe. Of course, in order to do that, it has to function as intended, and NASA believes the repairs and upgrades the crew made during the series of spacewalks will ensure the spectrometer will continue to function for as long as the Space Station remains viable, which could be as long as another decade.