July 16, 2013
NASA is looking into a possible cooling system leak after water seeped into the helmet of spacewalking European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano on July 16, prompting an early end to a two-man excursion that was to advance preparations for the arrival of Russia’s Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM) later this year.
Neither Parmitano nor lead U.S. spacewalker Chris Cassidy faced imminent danger, and all of the missed tasks can be rescheduled without urgency, according to NASA’s Mission Control.
The incident was the most serious to confront ISS spacewalkers since June 24, 2004, when NASA’s Mike Fincke and cosmonaut Gennady Padalka retreated after 14 min. when Fincke’s Russian space suit experienced an oxygen leak. The July 16 issue involved the NASA space shuttle era suits worn by Canadian, Japanese and European as well as American astronauts for work outside the station’s U.S. segment.
Cassidy and Parmitano embarked at 7:57 a.m. EDT on the scheduled 6 1⁄4 hr. spacewalk to work their way through a series of tasks started during a successful July 9 excursion. The outing was over with Parmitano and Cassidy safely inside the station’s airlock 92 min. later.
At 8:43 a.m., Parmitano reported water at the back of his head and seeping inside the communications cap that fits tightly against his head under the helmet.
The ESA astronaut was wedged between two modules as he began to extend Ethernet cabling from the U.S. to the Russian segments as a future data link for the MLM.
“It feels like a lot of water. I don’t know where it’s coming from,” Parmitano reported, as Cassidy began to move to his partner’s aide.
Parmitano reported he was sipping at the water to diminish the buildup.
“It’s a lot of water,” Cassidy observed. “It’s in his eyes as well as his nose and mouth.”