IN SPACE (NASA HANDOUT) - An ammonia leak was detected in the cooling system outside of theInternational Space Station on Thursday (May 9), but no crew members are in danger and the station is operating normally, the U.S. space agency NASA said on its website.
Crew members at the orbital outpost spotted white flakes of ammonia floating away from the space station at about 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT) on Thursday, NASA said, and fixing the leak might require that a portion of the station's cooling system be shut down for about 48 hours.
"Houston, let us know if we're telling you stuff you already know, but all of us agree, they were coming out cleanly and repeatedly enough that it looked like it was a point source they were coming from," Commander Chris Hadfield reported.
Officials said the leak appeared to be getting worse. But NASA also reported on its website that the station continues to operate normally otherwise, and the crew is in no danger.
The ammonia flakes were seen floating away from an area of the space station's P6 truss structure, the agency said. It was not clear whether it was related to a previous leak in late 2012.
Ammonia is used to cool the equipment that provides power to the station's systems, NASA said. Each array of solar battery cells has its own cooling loop.
The space station, which is staffed by rotating crews of six astronauts and cosmonauts, is a $100 billion research outpost owned by the United States andRussia in partnership with Europe, Japan and Canada.
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