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How Did That Spacesuit Water Leak Spread? New Video Has Clues

As NASA investigates how astronaut Luca Parmitano’s spacesuit filled with water during a spacewalk two weeks ago, a new video by fellow Expedition 36 astronaut Chris Cassidy demonstrated the path the pool took inside Parmitano’s helmet.

Cassidy described the situation as leaking “cooling water” that got “somehow into his ventilation system” and spread into Parmitano’s helmet. The cause is still being investigated.

From a ventilation port at the back of the helmet, “the water bubbles started to build up behind this white plastic piece,” Cassidy said in the video, pointing at a support that was behind Parmitano’s head.

Update: There’s now part 2 of Cassidy’s description of the leak, below:


“Once the water got big enough that it went all the way around and started coming outside the edge of the white plastic, then it saturated his communication cap and the … flow brought the water all around his head. And he had water filled up in his ear hubs, and it started to creep into his eyes, and cover his nose.”

Calling it a “scary situation”, Cassidy said that if the leak had continued, “it would have been very serious.” NASA, however, aborted the spacewalk quickly after Parmitano reported the problem. Parmitano and Cassidy, who were outside together, were back in the International Space Station in minutes.

Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano during a spacesuit fit check before his mission. Credit: NASA

Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano during a spacesuit fit check before his mission. Credit: NASA

Parmitano, for his part, has repeatedly said that he is doing all right. “Guys, I am doing fine and thanks for all the support. I am really okay and ready to move on,” he said, as reported in a July 18 ESA blog post.

NASA has at least two probes going on: an engineering analysis to find the cause, and a more wide-ranging mishap investigation to look at spacewalk procedures and overall crew safety during spaceflights. The agency also sent a spacesuit repair kit on the Progress spacecraft that docked with the International Space Station on July 27.

The July 16 spacewalk ended after just 1 hour, 32 minutes. All of the tasks for the planned 6.5-hour outing, which included preparing data cables and power for a forthcoming Russian module, are not urgent and can be done any time, NASA said. Further American spacewalks are suspended for the time being.

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Olaf2 July 30, 2013, 4:34 PM

    This is one of the unexpected mind boggling things no one ever thought about.
    It might be a cool movie plot, drawing in space.

    So next helmet addition, a vacuum pump that sucks away any water in the helmet.

    • Patrick Ahles July 30, 2013, 7:06 PM

      It would be difficult breathing in a vacuum…

  • Kevin Frushour July 30, 2013, 9:24 PM

    I haven’t even gotten to the post (I open the pages up in tabs) with Chris Hedfield talking about how important the ISS is and this has already illustrated one of the reasons it is important.

    The ventilation going up the back of the head first is smart! Maybe they out to put a moisture sensor back there, if the communications cap would keep an astronaut from feeling water back there.

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