NASAastronaut Bill McArthur has found a set of missing Russian spacesuit air scrubbersduring a weekend search aboard the International Space Station (ISS), the U.S.space agency said Monday.
McArthur,who commands the ISSExpedition 12 mission, discovered the four lithium hydroxide canisters -which are used to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere of Russian-builtOrlan spacesuits during spacewalks - on Saturday during an off-duty search,NASA said.
The missingcanisters were tucked behind a panel inside the space station's Russian-builtZvezda service module. Without them, the ISS astronauts would have not beenable to use Orlan spacesuits, which are tailored for work outside the station'sRussian-built segments, until additional lithium hydroxide units arrived aboardan automated cargo ship in mid-April.
McArthur'sfind came days after NASAcleared a handrail issue that had barred spacewalks in U.S.-builtspacesuits for about one month. With the handrail issue clear and the missingair scrubbers now found, McArthur and Expedition 12 flight engineer ValeryTokarev have regained full spacewalk capabilities aboard the ISS, if needed.
Nospacewalks are currently planned for the remainder of the Expedition 12 crew'smission. McArthur and Tokarev are slated to returnto Earth on April 8.
Theirreplacements, Expedition13 commander Pavel Vinogradov and flight engineer Jeffrey Williams, willlaunch toward the ISS with Brazilian astronaut MarcosPontes at on March 29 at 9:30 p.m. EST (0230 GMT). Pontes will return toEarth with the Expedition 12 astronauts.