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Toxic leak forces astronauts to evacuate space station module

A leak of the International Space Station's cooling system into the American module has prompted the crew to shelter in the Russian module.

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Soyuz and Progress ships attached to the ISS. The Soyuz can be an emergency lifeboat in the last resort.

NASA

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Sen—A toxic leak of chemicals inside the International Space Station (ISS) forced the evacuation of the crew from the American-built part of the station into the Russian segment, Russian space agency, Roscosmos announced Wednesday.

According to the agency's statement, the release of toxic chemicals from the station's cooling system took place around 11:44 Moscow Time on 14 January.

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At this time, the US segment is isolated, the crew is safe and is sheltering in the Russian segment. The concentration of contaminants in the atmosphere of the Russian segment is within allowable limits, the statement said.

According to the chief of the Russian mission control, Maksim Matyushin, the safety of the crew was ensured thanks to cooperative and quick actions of cosmonauts and astronauts and support groups in Moscow and Houston.

"Further actions on the American segment should be developed by the US," Matyushin said, "Currently, Mission Control in Houston is analyzing the information about the status of the US segment."

The station's cooling system uses liquid ammonia to remove excess heat from various systems on board the outpost and radiate it into space. During the years of operation, the complex system proved to be maintenance-heavy and failure-prone and was a cause of several technical problems before, which required the intervention of the crew and even spacewalks.

However, US and Russian segments of the station have fully independent life-support and power-supply systems and can function autonomously. As a last resort, the six-member crew can board a pair of Soyuz spacecraft parked at the Russian segment and return to Earth as needed.

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