Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) were forced to evacuate its US section yesterday after a suspected leak of "harmful substances" from its cooling system, according to Russian officials.
"All astronauts and cosmonauts have moved to the Russian sector of the ISS," a representative of the Russian Space Agency's Mission Control Centre told Interfax. The crew put on breathing equipment and closed the hatch to the US segment during the move.
Maxim Matyushin, the head of the Russian centre, said the crew escaped harm as a result of their own "co-ordinated and efficient actions", conducted in tandem with ground control in Moscow and Houston. Nasa would now analyse the state of the US section, he added.
The Russian Space Agency said the situation was under control and there was no threat to the health of the crew.
"The concentration of impurities in the atmosphere of the Russian section is within acceptable norms," it added.
Nasa said it may have been a false alarm triggered by a faulty sensor or a computer relay and there was "no direct evidence that ammonia was leaked into the station atmosphere".
All the crew were "safe and in good shape".
The space station is manned by three Russians, two Americans and one astronaut from the European Space Agency. The commander is Nasa's Barry 'Butch' Wilmore.
On Monday, the SpaceX Dragon cargo carrier docked successfully with the ISS. The crew has been unloading several tonnes of supplies and equipment for science experiments. (© Daily Telegraph London)