NASA Spacewalkers Begin Urgent Repairs

A malfunctioning pump has halted research and left the International Space Station vulnerable

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Two American astronauts stepped out Saturday for the first U.S. spacewalk since July, one of at least two walks planned to repair an important pump with a malfunctioning valve.

Rick Mastracchio and Michael Hopkins worked to disconnect the malfunctioning 780-pound pump at the International Space Station, the Associated PressĀ reports. Research has been on hold since the pump’s breakdown 10 days ago, and astronauts had been required to turn off all nonessential equipment.

Spacewalks had been suspended since July, when an Italian astronaut almost drowned after his helmut flooded with water from his contaminated spacesuit’s cooling system.

The astronauts will replace the pump Monday and, if needed, return again on Christmas to ensure it’s operating correctly.