The International Space Station is old. The first pieces of it were sent into orbit almost two decades ago, and it’s been under near constant construction and remodeling ever since, adding new components and expanding the craft’s usefulness. But it’s still old. We were reminded of that today when a much-anticipated spacewalk at the ISS was delayed due to an unfortunate malfunction: a water leak.
According to NASA, the leak was discovered just before two US astronauts — Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer — were scheduled to perform the 200th spacewalk at the International Space Station. The leak was found while the astronauts were waiting in the airlock, and was traced to the connection between an umbilical hose attached to Fischer’s spacesuit and the ISS itself. The umbilical, which acts as the lifeline between the astronauts as the ISS, provides power to the batteries in their equipment and circulates oxygen.
Thankfully, NASA has a contingency plan for just such an occurrence: ditching the troublesome hose and just using one, for both astronauts. Now, instead of each astronaut having a functioning connection to the spacecraft, they’ll just trade off, handing the connector back and forth and utilizing backup battery power in their suits when not connected. NASA maintained that the actual spacesuits worn by the astronauts are “perfectly fine.”
Despite its age, the International Space Station still seems to have a lot of life left, and while some reports over the years suggested that the craft would be decommissioned sooner rather than later, NASA’s recently penned deal with Boeing includes a commitment to maintain the ISS hardware through at least 2028.