News

Spacewalk aborted after astronaut nearly drowns in own suit

Spacewalk aborted after astronaut nearly drowns in own suit

U.S. astronaut Karen Nyberg assists Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano after water began building up inside his helmet during a spacewalk outside the International Space Station, in this still image taken from NASA video July 16, 2013. Photo: Reuters/NASA/Handout

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) – A spacewalk to work on the International Space Station ended abruptly on Tuesday when a water-like liquid started building up inside an Italian astronaut’s helmet, NASA officials said.

U.S. astronaut Chris Cassidy and Italy’s Luca Parmitano were less than an hour into a planned six-hour outing when Parmitano reported what seemed to be water inside his helmet.

“My head is really wet and I have a feeling it’s increasing,” Parmitano radioed to flight controllers in Houston.

Thinking it might be his drink bag leaking, Parmitano drained the bag, but in the weightless environment of space, blobs of liquid continued to collect in his helmet.

“Where’s it coming from?” Parmitano said. “It’s too much. Now it’s in my eyes.”

With the astronaut at risk of choking or drowning, NASA called off the spacewalk just before 9 a.m. EDT.

“It was clear that he was having trouble,” flight director David Korth later told reporters on a conference call.

Preliminary analysis indicates the leak did not stem from the drink bag, leading engineers to focus on the astronaut’s liquid-cooled undergarment as the source.

Engineers estimate about 1- to 1.5 liters of water had collected inside Parmitano’s spacesuit by the time station crew members were able to get to him and take off his helmet.

“In zero gravity, the water pools in a big glob so it doesn’t necessarily go down into the suit and there’s not a lot of absorptive material in the helmet,” said lead spacewalk officer Karina Eversley.

When asked by a reporter if Parmitano could have drowned, Eversley said, “He certainly had that risk today and that’s why we took it so seriously.”

Parmitano, who last week became the first Italian to make a spacewalk, does not seem to be suffering from any ill-effects from the incident, he added.

Analysis is continuing to determine the source of the leak and assess whether the problem is peculiar to the spacesuit Parmitano wore or is part of a wider issue with the suits.

The spacewalk began around 8 a.m. EDT with Cassidy and Parmitano ready to tackle maintenance chores left over from a previous spacewalk on July 9.

Parmitano was setting up an internet cable between the station’s Unity connecting node and the Russian Zarya module when noticed the liquid collecting inside his helmet.

NASA said there was nothing time-critical on the spacewalker’s to-do list, which included work to prepare the station for a Russian research laboratory slated to arrive later this year.

The spacewalk was Cassidy’s sixth and the second for Parmitano.

Latest Stories

in Sports

Tony Stewart returns to NASCAR racing after fatal accident

Tony Stewart smiles as he speaks with his crew before the start of the rain delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 race at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, February 27, 2012.

Tony Stewart will return to racing this weekend at the Atlanta Motor Speedway for the first time since he struck and killed a young racer at a dirt track earlier this month.

in Sports

Mismatch fears over Paul McGinley dispelled

Europe's Paul McGinley of Ireland watches his shot on the third hole during the second day of foursomes competition against Asia at the Royal Trophy golf tournament in Chonburi province, near Bangkok, January 10, 2009.

Four-times European Tour winner Paul McGinley won the Ryder Cup in 2002 but Phillip Price says next month's matches at Gleneagles could end up defining his career.

in Sports

Dream run over for Catherine Bellis as big guns advance

Aug 28, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Catherine Bellis (USA) hits to Zarina Diyas (KAZ) on day four of the 2014 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic were forced to take a backseat to 15-year-old Catherine Bellis, who hogged the Flushing Meadows limelight once again.