Spacewalk aborted after malfunction causes water leak in astronaut’s helmet

Scott Sutherland

Astronauts Chris Cassidy and Luca Parmitano returned to the International Space Station after only an hour and a half into their six-hour spacewalk today, due to a malfunction in Parmitano's helmet that caused water to accumulate inside.

The spacewalk, which started at just before 8 a.m. Eastern Time, was to continue the work from last week's spacewalk (the first for both Parmitano and Italy), to prepare the station to receive a new Russian module later this year and complete various other 'housekeeping' tasks. It was right around 9:30, though, that Parmitano reported the problem.

"My head is really wet and I have a feeling it's increasing," Parmitano reported to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, according to Discovery News.

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CBC News said that Parmitano first thought it was sweat due to the exertion of the work they were performing, but he was assured that wasn't the case. The article also said that Cassidy believed it may have been from the bag of drinking water that each astronaut has available to them during spacewalks, and that he said it looks like a half-litre of water leaked out.

The astronauts continued their work until the water got into Parmitano's eyes, at which point NASA controllers aborted the spacewalk.

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Getting water into your eyes might not seem like a good reason to abort this kind of work, but as I wrote about back in January, getting anything into your eyes when you're (essentially) trapped inside a space suit can be a serious issue. With this (apparently) being only water, it was probably just a nuisance for Parmitano. However, the leak could have also been a sign of some other more dangerous problem.

Chris Hadfield filmed a short piece on what happens when you get water in your eyes, during his stay on board the ISS earlier this year:

(Photo courtesy: NASA. Video courtesy: NASA/CSA)

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