Mon, Sep 18, 2006
Problem Generator Powered Down; Should Not Affect Expedition 14
A big scare in space Monday... as NASA flight controllers
declared an emergency aboard the International Space Station, when
the three-member crew noticed what they first described as smoke,
and smelled a foul odor.
Shortly before 7:30 am EDT, the Expedition 13 crew reported the
odor in the Russian Zvezda Service Module, and manually activated
an alarm to begin emergency procedures. The source of the odor was
quickly determined to be an apparent leak of potassium hydroxide in
the station's Elektron oxygen generation system.
Potassium hydroxide, or caustic potash, can be an irritant to
crew members, but is not classified as a life-threatening
The crew donned surgical masks, goggles and gloves for
protection from the apparently small leak. Continual measurements
of the station atmosphere have indicated levels of any contaminants
are very low. The crew also has begun a standard procedure to scrub
the air onboard to ensure no potassium hydroxide vapors remain.
Expedition 13 Commander Pavel Vinogradov reported to Russian
flight controllers at about 7:45 am that the situation had
stabilized, and that he cleaned up a chemical near the Elektron
oxygen generation system.
International Space Station Program Manager Mike Suffredini said
the incident will have no impact on the upcoming arrival of the
Expedition 14 crew on Wednesday. For the moment, however, Elektra
remains cold, and there is some question whether the module can --
or should be -- powered back up.
Fortunately, there are plenty of spare parts for the Elektron,
and NASA officials say they have plenty of oxygen candles and
bottled O-2 on board. But if the Elektron can't be fixed... that
could cause even bigger problems down the road.
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