Leak In Astronaut Luca Parmitano's Helmet Ends ISS Spacewalk Early
July 16, 2013

Leak In Astronaut Luca Parmitano’s Helmet Ends ISS Spacewalk Early

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Today's spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS) was aborted an hour after it began, reportedly due to a leak in Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano's helmet.

Parmitano reported feeling water floating behind his head and said he first thought it was sweat due to exertion. However, his fellow spacewalker, American Christopher Cassidy, said it might be water from his drink bag, adding it looked half a liter empty.

While not determined to be an immediate threat, NASA Mission Control decided to end the spacewalk early. According to the NASA Astronauts official Twitter feed, Parmitano is "doing well" and smiling.

The crew members began the second of two July spacewalks intending to prepare for the attachment of a new Russian module and other new installations along the station's backbone. According to a NASA statement, the two astronauts were able to successfully install bypass jumpers designed to provide power redundancy to critical components for the new Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module, which is scheduled to arrive later this year.

The team was also scheduled to replace a video camera on the Japanese Exposed Facility platform, move wireless camera equipment, fix a balky relay box cover on the station's exterior truss and troubleshoot a dysfunctional electronics box that was removed from the station's truss last year.

On Friday, the crew finished their daily conference with various flight control teams from around the world before preparing the tools for use on today's spacewalk. Parmitano also took time to talk with Enrico Saggese, president of the Italian Space Agency, and a group of Italian reporters about his July 9 spacewalk, the first for an Italian.

Parmitano blogged about his first spacewalk on the European Space Agency blog portal, describing the scrupulous preparations each spacewalker must go through before leaving the station's airlock.

"We carry these out meticulously; even though I have followed these choreographed steps so many times on the ground during simulations, now it's for real and I will soon depend on this cumbersome suit to survive outside the Station in space," he said. "This is such an incredible idea that my brain doesn't stop to dwell on it, and instead I focus on the activities underway."

Parmitano also described a complication that came with his first trip outside the ISS.

"My eyes start burning as if I had rubbed them with soap and they become very watery. At first, I don't understand what's going on: tears are pouring out of my eyes and it stings so much that I can't keep them open," he wrote. "Then I understand what is happening: during our preparations, we cleaned the inner part of the visor with an antifogging agent. Because of the low pressure, the product had evaporated and it must have gone into my eyes, irritating them.

"I know that the effect will last a couple of hours and that there's nothing I can do," Parmitano continued. "I resign myself to the burning sensation and I have to shake my head time and again to make the tears stop."

Today's spacewalk was the fifth conducted outside the ISS this year. NASA has yet to announce plans for completing the scheduled maintenance tasks to be performed on the station's exterior.