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Spacewalk Aborted When Water Fills Astronaut's Helmet

timothy posted about 9 months ago | from the could-be-worse-could-be-aliens dept.

Space 125

astroengine writes "A planned six-hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station came to a dramatic and abrupt end on Tuesday when water started building up inside the helmet of Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano. Parmitano and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy were less than an hour into their spacewalk, their second in a week, when Parmitano reported that his head felt wet. 'My head is really wet and I have a feeling it's increasing,' Parmitano reported to ground control teams at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Parmitano returned safely to the space station interior, but the cause of the leak was not immediately known."

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125 comments

Close call (5, Funny)

dadelbunts (1727498) | about 9 months ago | (#44297517)

Would have sucked to be the first person to drown in outer space.

Re:Close call (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44297573)

Don't astronauts train underwater? It sounds like some sound stage technician fucked up.

Re:Close call (2)

ackthpt (218170) | about 9 months ago | (#44297861)

Don't astronauts train underwater? It sounds like some sound stage technician fucked up.

What, like he was in a pool in outer space? Um...

Re:Close call (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44297645)

Luca's colleague in the spacewalk, known only as Mario, was quoted as saying "AH HA, It's a me!" before bouncing off of some kind of extraterrestrial mushroom.

NASA had no comment.

Re:Close call (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44297809)

Would have sucked to be the first person to drown in outer space.

No, it would suck to asphyxiate in space.

Re:Close call (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44298671)

Wow, you sure got him there.....

Re:Close call (5, Funny)

plover (150551) | about 9 months ago | (#44297871)

Parmitano: "Hey, I gotta leak in my helmet!"
Cassidy: "Go ahead. It's your helmet."

Re:Close call (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44299037)

somebody should have told him its the NSA not Nasa thats supposed to supress leaks

Glad he's okay (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44297533)

Nobody wants to be known as the first astronaut to drown in space.

I guess those Space Nutters were right (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44297535)

There is water in space!

Re:I guess those Space Nutters were right (-1, Offtopic)

c0lo (1497653) | about 9 months ago | (#44297639)

There is water in space!

Only in the head of Italian astronauts. At least, that's how I read:

Parmitano returned safely to the space station interior, but the cause of the leak was not immediately known

I mean: what else is there to leak in the helmet?

Re:I guess those Space Nutters were right (5, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 9 months ago | (#44297951)

I'm not a rocket surgeon; but I'd guess a failure somewhere in the PLLS [wikipedia.org] . That component is supposed to condense and remove water vapor from the gas(as well as scrubbing CO2 and adding oxygen if needed) before reintroducing the fresh atmosphere into the astronaut's helmet.

Between a possible failure in the mechanism for removing condensation(which would cause the output to be alarmingly damp if you aren't expecting it; but would be a self-limiting problem since there just isn't that much water vapor available), there is the more serious possibility that the LCVG [wikipedia.org] , or the heat exchanger that keeps the coolant water in that chilled, is leaking, which might actually end up being enough water to impair breathing(especially with surface tension but not gravity), or impair the cooling functions enough to threaten the astronaut's ability to function. If he's on a tether, they'd presumably just reel him in if he were to pass out from thermal overload; but a free walk would not be a good time to lose consciousness...

Re:I guess those Space Nutters were right (1)

icebike (68054) | about 9 months ago | (#44299059)

It could have been a leak in the liquid cooling used in the space suit.

Re:I guess those Space Nutters were right (1)

John Pfeiffer (454131) | about 9 months ago | (#44299159)

My first thought was a leak in the LCVG, which I would have to imagine would already suck big time during a multi-hour spacewalk just from water getting loose in the suit... (Especially if it's getting up into the helmet!) Physiological effects from the cooling failure are just the icing on the cake.

Re:I guess those Space Nutters were right (2)

Kelbear (870538) | about 9 months ago | (#44301515)

I would have lost my shit on the spot. Man, just imagining myself floating out there on a spacewalk 200 miles above the earth, and feeling water on my head that isn't supposed be there...*shudder*. Just being up there is a spectacular balancing act of hundreds of special-purpose technologies that nearly all result in a horrible horrible death should they go wrong, finding even the slightest thing going wrong would freak me out.

Calls to mind the trailer for Alfonso Cuaron's (director for Children of Men) new movie "Gravity":
http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi2518132249?ref_=tt_pv_vi_1 [imdb.com]

Re:I guess those Space Nutters were right (1)

prisoner-of-enigma (535770) | about 9 months ago | (#44299795)

Could've been a leak of the drinking water supply, unless they no longer have those in the suits.

Re:I guess those Space Nutters were right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44300891)

If he was going to be there for 6 hours I'd be surprised if there was no drinking water.

Re:I guess those Space Nutters were right (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 9 months ago | (#44301743)

The astronaut is quoted as saying that it didn't taste like water from the drinking water supply. Could be that, once steeped in helmet-gunk and hair, it tastes different, could be from a coolant loop.

Thanks Obama (5, Funny)

Ceriel Nosforit (682174) | about 9 months ago | (#44297557)

What will the government do to stop these leaks?!

Re:Thanks Obama (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 9 months ago | (#44297681)

What will the government do to stop these leaks?!

Why, that's elementary... apply some pressure... on other govts to refuse the landing.

Re:Thanks Obama (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44298093)

Duel use of items is one way NASA try's to make due with budget cuts. When not used for space-walks, astronaut helmets do double duty as a goldfish bowl.

Water? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44297559)

let's face it - he peed.

What next, "Uh, Houston. I smell something awful in my suit. I need to go back in." after burrito night on the ISS?

don't worry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44297561)

It was just a small malfunction in the waste extraction system. Self limiting to be sure.

Re:don't worry (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44297597)

One of the least popular practical jokes on the ISS is swapping the regular space suit with a far less practical stillsuit.

I suspect DHMO contamination (5, Funny)

philip.paradis (2580427) | about 9 months ago | (#44297565)

I've been trying to warn the public about the inherent dangers of DHMO [dhmo.org] for years, but my cries have fallen on deaf ears. Perhaps someone at NASA will listen now.

Re:I suspect DHMO contamination (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44297685)

I've been warning people since 1995. This is serious stuff. I even got a chemistry major to change majors after I informed him.

Re:I suspect DHMO contamination (1)

AdamStarks (2634757) | about 9 months ago | (#44298177)

I've been trying to warn the public about the inherent dangers of DHMO [dhmo.org] for years, but my cries have fallen on deaf ears. Perhaps someone at NSA will listen now.

FTFY

Re:I suspect DHMO contamination (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44299087)

They already are listening

I'm drinking it and peeing as fast as I can! (1, Insightful)

sideslash (1865434) | about 9 months ago | (#44297575)

I'm glad our guys and gals at NASA are so professional. I would not make a very good mission control team member in this circumstance.

Re:I'm drinking it and peeing as fast as I can! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44299225)

nitpick: NASA and ESA (Cassidy is from NASA and Parmitano is from ESA).

What does it smell like in a space suit? (5, Funny)

stevegee58 (1179505) | about 9 months ago | (#44297651)

Depends.

Re:What does it smell like in a space suit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44297939)

Smells like the Ghost-Particles of the Uber-Top-Secret ENGLISH SPACE PROGRAM.
Very likely Jack of Beanstalk fame managed to get hold of some space- Kraft Parmetian cheese.....
You can order that crap at Argos.

overwhelming... (0)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | about 9 months ago | (#44297679)

Must... not... make.... Italian jokes....

Re:overwhelming... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44298587)

Must... not... make.... Italian jokes....

The helmet -- around the guy's head -- was filling up with water. Seems legit.

I mean, there's no other explanation for a sudden build-up of liquid around an Italian's head, right?

Re:overwhelming... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44298639)

My first thought was of a very sweaty Italian.

Fills.... (4, Funny)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | about 9 months ago | (#44297759)

Fills... I do not think it means what you think it means.

Re:Fills.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44298751)

The Guardian [guardian.co.uk] says it was an estimated 500 mL of water, so while it might not have actually been full it's kinda disconcerting that so much could leak in after about an hour and a half of a 6 and a half hour walk.

Re:Fills.... (1)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | about 9 months ago | (#44298907)

Still, a better - more accurate word could have been used. For example, "filling" would have been more accurate... I might have chosen "rapidly accumulating" - as the helmet was not approaching full after only 500ml (around the same amount as a bottle of soda).

My gas tank is full at 12 gallons, so 2 gallons does not make it full. Had the accumulation continued at the same rate, his helmet might have indeed been full at the end of a 6 1/2 hour walk - but, he didn't make it that far, didn't accumulate that much, and never achieved "full".

Judging from the moderation, most everyone else gets my joke and reference. For the rest - you really need to see "The Princess Bride" - and watch "Blazing Saddles" after.

'scuse me while I whip this out!

Re:Fills.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44299497)

Still, a better - more accurate word could have been used. For example, "filling" would have been more accurate... I might have chosen "rapidly accumulating" - as the helmet was not approaching full after only 500ml (around the same amount as a bottle of soda).

My gas tank is full at 12 gallons, so 2 gallons does not make it full. Had the accumulation continued at the same rate, his helmet might have indeed been full at the end of a 6 1/2 hour walk - but, he didn't make it that far, didn't accumulate that much, and never achieved "full".

Judging from the moderation, most everyone else gets my joke and reference. For the rest - you really need to see "The Princess Bride" - and watch "Blazing Saddles" after.

'scuse me while I whip this out!

In case you've forgotten, his head was also inside the helmet, so the remaining interior volume isn't quite as large as you might expect. half a liter in the helmet as water vapor and condensation sounds panic worthy to me.

tl,dr: If you put a large dog inside the 12 gallon tank, and filled it with 2 gallons of gas, it'd "fill" a lot faster, now wouldn't it.

Re:Fills.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44299545)

Also, no gravity, right? it's not pooling at the neckline, it's floating and clinging to everything including the astronaut's head.

Re:Fills.... (1)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | about 9 months ago | (#44300363)

Having seen the EVA suits many times since childhood, I know that there is a lot of room in the helmet - those things are huge.

While I agree that it's an amount worth being concerned about - my point is that "full" has a specific meaning. If the astronaut didn't drown, the helmet wasn't full.

Cooling system leak (5, Insightful)

bruce_the_loon (856617) | about 9 months ago | (#44297789)

Sounds like it was a leak in the inner-jacket cooling system that circulates water around the astronaut's body. Can't be a fun experience though,

Re:Cooling system leak (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44298469)

That's why I use a liquid mercury in my space jackets.

Re:Cooling system leak (2)

Bengie (1121981) | about 9 months ago | (#44298945)

"a liquid mercury". I'm not sure if it can be considered a liquid if there's is only one.

Re:Cooling system leak (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44301419)

Actually, I meant to type a liquid mercury system. I blame dyslexia for the WIN

FTFY (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44301909)

...I blame dyslexia for the NIW

Re:Cooling system leak (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 9 months ago | (#44300641)

Especially not once the cooling system fails because you're swimming in it instead of it circulating.

Hot and wet, in a cramped suit. Ick.

alternative explainations (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44297889)

Sweat possibly. Or, he was hallucinating. Or, worse an alien got in his spacesuit.

I don't think water "filled" the helmet (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44297915)

What a STUPID headline.

It's the black oil! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44298075)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_(The_X-Files)

Water? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44298313)

I bet it was grease.

Obligatory Reference: UFO (Gerry Anderson) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44298605)

As long as the fluid did not have a GREEN color. ITV Properties would have sued NASA for plagiarizing Gerry Anderson's UFO "Ordeal" episode. [cue Barry Gray sound effect]

Now They're Waterboarding Astronauts??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44298609)

Fucking hell - those Americans will stop at nothing!

*note to NSA: I'm joking - please don't arrest/torture/"render" me!

Hmm (1)

Richy_T (111409) | about 9 months ago | (#44298839)

Had he left a tube of biscuit dough in the back of his space-suit?

(OK, this is *very* obscure)

Re:Hmm (2)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 9 months ago | (#44299367)

Cm'on... I'm sure at least 20% of slashdot readers have seen that Mythbusters episode....

I doubt he was returning from his spacewalk with the week's groceries stuffed in his suit though.

So a plastic tube leaks.. wow. (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about 9 months ago | (#44298935)

I know the suits use water cooling and there's also a drinking water supply system, so this causes a minor inconvenience. It wasn't like when Ed White did the first US spacewalk and his suit inflated to a size such that he couldn't get back into the Gemini Capsule. Some think he was just trying to get some extra spacewalk time but that seems a bit more like a real show stopper. In this case the guy just got a wet head and a shorted out comm system.

Re:So a plastic tube leaks.. wow. (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 9 months ago | (#44300673)

If it was the cooling system that's a no-go. Once that runs dry, heat will start to build up in the suit.

Re:So a plastic tube leaks.. wow. (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about 9 months ago | (#44301727)

Oh no question but the guy can always go back inside. It's not like he's 50 miles away from the station? I guess the thing that makes it newsworthy is that it happens in space whereas an Oil Rig Diver who has an oxygen tank failure is less newsworthy because it isn't plastered all over the world news. As Super Chicken once said: "You knew the job was dangerous when you took it Fred."

Re:So a plastic tube leaks.. wow. (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 9 months ago | (#44302613)

I find it interesting that you don't see the difference between a dangerous job on the ground/sea and a dangerous job in orbit...

Shows how far we've come, eh?

How is this even a story? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44299337)

A minor malfunction with a piece of industrial equipment, caught in time, and no injury or loss of life. How on Earth is this deemed a worthy story to promote?

Re:How is this even a story? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44299889)

How on Earth

Because it wasn't this.

Methods for Helmet Water Relocation (1)

DarthVain (724186) | about 9 months ago | (#44299751)

If only Humans had some method for consuming and then excreting water...

See Homer Simpson for details.

Of course I am assuming it is water and not some non-drinkable coolant liquid.

If I were on a spacewalk... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44300563)

...I'd be sweating my ass off too! Well, he was sweating from his head.... filled his damned helmet!

What Houston should have said (1)

paiute (550198) | about 9 months ago | (#44300909)

It's okay - you breathed it for nine months once.

Re:What Houston should have said (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44301677)

In Lt. Commander Data's voice: Incorrect. Respiration in humans does not begin at the moment of conception. I believe this event happens around 36 weeks after conception.

it's Obama's fault! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44302495)

Obamacare is causing equipment failures in space or some other Obamaphobic rhetoric.

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