- (Photo: REUTERS/NASA TV/Handout )
A NASA spacewalk was aborted Tuesday because an astronaut's helmet began to leak "funny-tasting" water while outside the space station. Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano was doing his second spacewalk when the trouble began, and he was ordered back inside the International Space Station before he drowned.
The NASA spacewalk being aborted could only have been caused by one of two things: the 32-ounce drinking bag in the suit, which mission control quickly ruled out, and the suit's cooling system, which contains a gallon of water tinged with iodine, which would explain the funny taste. Parmitano survived the ordeal unharmed, NASA officials explained at a press conference.
The trouble began about an hour into the spacewalk. Parmitano, a former test pilot and Italian air force officer, told mission control he felt a lot of water on the back of his head- he thought it could have been sweat. However, as the helmet began to fill with water, he realized it was far worse than he realized. His eyes, nose and mouth were drenched with the liquid, which forms globules in space because of the lack of gravity.
"It's a lot of water," he said once back inside the ISS. Parmitano guessed that the suit's carbon dioxide sensor was malfunctioning, which could have been caused the leak.
Soon, NASA officials told the astronaut to head back inside, with the total time outside the ISS clocking in at an hour and 32 minutes. The trip was supposed to last six hours and 15 minutes, and Parmitano was scheduled to make repairs and prepare the ISS to dock with a Russian spacecraft.
"We have not seen a problem like this before," Karina Eversley, a NASA official, told reporters at the press conference. "This was a very serious issue."
Parmitano's spacewalk partner, American astronaut Christopher Cassidy, helped him back inside and cleaned up the spacesuit.
"He looks fine," Cassidy assured everyone. "He looks miserable. But OK."
NASA officials said the spacewalk will still count for Parmitano as his second; he is the first Italian to spacewalk. It was Cassidy's sixth.