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Spacewalking astronauts encountered leaking ammonia and minor glove damage while performing plumbing work outside the International Space Station on Friday, but NASA said neither issue posed an immediate threat.
NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren reported intermittent flakes of toxic ammonia while making connections in a cooling line. He assured Mission Control it appeared to be just a small leak.
Mission Control stressed that the astronauts were in no danger.
Lindgren and NASA's one-year spaceman, Scott Kelly, the station's commander, were about two hours into their planned 6½-hour spacewalk when the ammonia flakes spewed out. As long as the men were outside, any potential suit contamination would pose no concern. But before going back in, they would need to make certain that any traces of ammonia had been removed by the sun.
In the past, several spacewalkers have been sprayed with the hazardous substance, but the outdoor cleanup procedures have always worked.
Minutes later, Kelly reported that the forefinger of his right glove had a stitch poking out. He said it looked like a loop. Flight controllers in Houston scrambled to make certain the damage was, indeed, slight and superficial; they determined it was.
It was the second spacewalk in 1 1/2 weeks for Lindgren and Kelly, who's more than halfway through a U.S. record-setting yearlong flight. They got started an hour early, eager to make the home improvements.