July 17

astronaut_spacewalk(USA Today)  Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency got into trouble Tuesday. He was performing routine maintenance outside when water started trickling into the back of his helmet.

Spacewalking partner Chris Cassidy, a U.S. astronaut, took a look: “It’s a lot of water. His hair is saturated. It’s in his eyes as well as his nose and mouth.”

Mission Control was alarmed. NASA quickly aborted the spacewalk, cut it short by five hours. Parmitano and Cassidy were ordered back to the U.S. Quest airlock, where they would be out of the deadly vacuum environment in low Earth orbit, and into the relative safety of the space station.

The tide kept rising in Parmitano’s helmet during his 20-minute retreat to the airlock. And yes, NASA said he was in danger of drowning.

“Imagine you’re in a fish bowl,” said David Korth, NASA’s lead spacewalk flight director. “So, go stick your head in a fish bowl and try to walk around, and that’s not anything you would take lightly. And certainly, (spacewalking) is dangerous already.”

Parmitano could not hear or respond to questions after he reentered the airlock.

“Hey, Luca, from Houston, how’re you doing? Give us a status,” astronaut Shane Kimbrough said from Mission Control.

“Luca, did you hear that?” Cassidy asked.

He didn’t.

“Squeeze my hand if you’re fine,” Cassidy said, peering into his crewmate’s visor.

“I’m trying to see him,” Cassidy said. “He looks fine. He looks miserable, but OK.”

NASA is investigating. The initial suspect, a drinking water bag, no longer is thought to be the culprit. Jones, the veteran spacewalker, said his best guess is the leak came from Parmitano’s astronaut underwear.

Astronauts don form-fitting garments called Liquid Cooling and Ventilation Garments. They are cooled by chilled water lines running throughout. Jones suspects a rupture in a cooling line near Parmitano’s neck.

“The closest water line to where he was experiencing (trouble) is in the neck area of the LCVG,” Jones said.

For the complete article, click here.   Image courtesy of AP/NASA

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