NASA plans emergency space walk on International Space Station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. May 21 (Reuters) - A pair of astronauts will venture outside the International Space Station as early as Tuesday for an emergency space walk to replace a failed computer, one of two that control major U.S. systems aboard the orbiting outpost, NASA said on Sunday.

The primary device failed on Saturday, leaving the $100 billion orbiting laboratory to depend on a backup system to route commands to its solar power system, radiators, cooling loops and other equipment.

The station's current five-member crew from the United States, Russia and France were never in any danger, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said in a statement.

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NASA expects to make a decision later on Sunday about which astronauts aboard the station will make the two-hour space walk and when the assignment will take place.

Peggy Whitson, the station commander, assembled and tested a spare electronics box to replace the failed device, which had been installed during a space walk on March 30, said NASA spokesman Dan Huot.

NASA's last emergency space walk took place in December 2015 when two U.S. astronauts left the station to release the brakes on a robot arm's mobile transporter.

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Things you didn't know were based on NASA innovations
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Things you didn't know were based on NASA innovations

1. Crash-test cameras

NASA needed high-speed, rugged cameras to record parachute-testing for its landing systems.

The agency reached out to California-based company Integrated Design Tools (IDT), which built a camera that could record 1,000 frames per second and immediately store the data.

That same technology is used in cameras that record crash tests.

 REUTERS/Gary Cameron

 2. Laser imaging: from space to underneath soil

NASA uses laser-imaging technology, or LIDAR on missions in outer space. In simple terms, LIDAR measures distances using laser light. It can be used to develop high-resolution maps, among many other things.

NASA helped design smaller versions that are used here on Earth. Archaeologists use them to help unearth artifacts. LIDAR is also used in autonomous-driving technology. 

 (JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

 3. From a screw threading to golf clubs

It turns out spacecraft design and golf-club engineering have some similarities.

An innovation called the "Spiralock" is an advanced screw-threading designed by the Holmes Tool Company. NASA sought them out because it needed an advanced screw that could withstand the rigors of space launch. 

It's being used in golf clubs, too.

(Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

4. Brain surgery tools

Neurosurgeons employ bipolar forceps which use electricity to cut and cauterize tissue. But electricity in the forceps generates extra heat, so you need to safely dissipate that heat and avoid damaging healthy brain tissue. 

A company called Thermacore has a solution that NASA had been using since the early days of space flight. Heat pipes. A downsized version was created for bipolar forceps, ensuring the safety and effectiveness of neurosurgery. 

 REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo 

5. Earthquake protection

A NASA-developed technology that used liquid fuel to prevent vibrations in the Ares 1 rocket was adapted to help stabilize buildings and bridges during earthquakes.

Now the NASA-derived technology, licensed by engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti for commercial use, has been installed on a new building in Brooklyn, New York.

 REUTERS/Remo Casilli

6. Fertilizer

NASA helped Florikan, a fertilizer company in Florida, develop a fertilizer that doesn't dissolve too quickly, ensuring plants get the right amount of nutrients from the fertilizer at the right time.

That fertilizer is now being used around the world — and in space.

(Photo by STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

7. From space photography to selfies

You are using NASA-derived technology when you take a picture with your smartphone.

A sensor adapted from complementary metal-oxide semiconductors was developed by NASA engineer Eric Fossum in the 1990s. Though the semiconductors have been used in computers for years, NASA says Fossum was the first person to successfully adapt it for picture-taking.

 (Photo credit Ellen DeGeneres/Twitter via Getty Images)

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The ISS, which is staffed by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts, serves as a research laboratory for biology, life science, materials science and physics experiments, as well as astronomical observations and Earth remote sensing.

The station, owned and operated by 15 nations, flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth and orbits the planet about every 90 minutes. It has been continuously staffed by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts since 2000. (Editing by Frank McGurty and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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