Spacewalk aborted after water leaks into astronaut's helmet

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Two astronauts aborted their spacewalk Friday and hurried back into the International Space Station after water leaked into one of the men's helmets in a scary repeat of a near-drowning 2 1/2 years ago.

See Full Article

The trouble cropped up after the astronauts -- including Britain's 1st spacewalker -- successfully restored full power to the space station.

NASA astronaut Timothy Kopra took everyone by surprise when he reported a small water bubble and a few minutes later, a film of water, inside his helmet. Mindful of another spacewalker's close call in 2013, Mission Control terminated the planned six-hour spacewalk at the four-hour mark.

"So far, I'm OK," Kopra assured everyone. Later, he said the water bubble was 4 inches long and getting thicker.

"I'm doing good," he repeated on his way back inside.

Lead flight director Royce Renfrew, who called an early end to the spacewalk, stressed that the situation was not an emergency and insisted neither spacewalker was in danger. Indeed, Kopra took time to thank everyone for their help as the air lock was pressurized.

Almost exactly an hour after he first reported the problem, Kopra was safely back inside his orbiting home, along with Timothy Peake, who attracted his own headlines by becoming Britain's first spacewalker Friday. Both men looked fine.

The astronauts waiting anxiously inside pulled off Kopra's helmet, then measured the water that had leaked, apparently from the cooling loop in the suit. Space station commander Scott Kelly reported that he filled a syringe with about 15 cubic centimetres of water.

That's nothing, NASA officials pointed out, compared with the 1 to 1 1/2litres of water that escaped into Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano's helmet and suit in July 2013.

The cap that Kopra wore on his head, under his helmet, was moist, as were other parts of his suit. As for Peake's suit, a quick look showed it to be dry save for a bit of moisture around the wrists.

Kopra and Peake completed their No. 1 job early on in the spacewalk. The pair quickly removed the voltage regulator that failed two months ago, slashing station power by one-eighth. The breakdown did not disrupt work 250 miles up, but NASA wanted the power grid fixed as soon as possible in case something else failed.

Working in darkness to avoid electrical shock from the solar power system, the astronauts quickly removed the bad unit and popped in a spare, both about the size of a 30-gallon aquarium. They had just 31 minutes to complete the job, the amount of nighttime on that particular swing around the world.

Following tests, Mission Control said the spare -- dubbed Dusty for its 17-year tenure in orbit -- appeared to be working properly.

Engineers suspect the original electronic unit suffered an internal electrical short. In the meantime, the station relied on the seven other power channels.

The action unfolded on the far reaches of the space station. The work site is about 200 feet from the astronauts' exit, about as far as spacewalkers safely can go.

"Glad to see you both out there together on the tip of the world," Mission Control radioed.

Peake, in particular, received a bounty of well wishes -- from space as well as Earth. He became the first spacewalker to wear the Union Jack on the shoulder of his suit.

"We're all watching, no pressure!" Former Beatle Paul McCartney said via Twitter. "Wishing you a happy stroll outdoors in the universe."

Earlier, as Peake floated out, space station commander Scott Kelly called, "Hey Tim, it's really cool seeing that Union Jack go outside. It's explored all over the world. Now it's explored space."

Replied Peake: "It's great to be wearing it, a huge privilege, a proud moment."

Peake, a helicopter pilot chosen by the European Space Agency, is Britain's first official astronaut.

A handful of previous spacewalkers held dual U.S.-English citizenship, but flew as Americans for NASA. The first British citizen to fly in space, chemist Helen Sharman, visited Russia's old Mir space station as part of a private competition in 1991.

Peake and Kopra rocketed into orbit exactly one month ago aboard a Russian spacecraft.

Parmitano -- another European Space Agency astronaut -- came close to drowning when water leaked into his helmet from the cooling system of his undergarment in 2013. NASA added absorbent pads to the helmet and put in place other precautions for future spacewalks. Those pads and safety procedures came in handy Friday.

Parmitano's spacewalking partner that day, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, rushed into Mission Control in Houston on Friday and offered assistance.

Cassidy, who's now chief of NASA's astronaut corps, said, at least, everyone now has "a good grasp" of what to heed and what to do. Engineers will scour the data in the weeks ahead to figure out what happened.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Indonesia survey shows massive coral death from cruise ship

    Tech & Science CTV News
    JAKARTA, Indonesia - Indonesia says nearly 19,000 square metres of coral reef was damaged by a foreign cruise ship that ran aground in the pristine waters of Raja Ampat in West Papua province earlier this month. Source
  • Ground-breaking bat cave discovery gives Alberta researchers baseline in fight against deadly disease

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The recent discovery of a large cave or hibernacula in northern Alberta where hundreds of bats have found hibernating is giving researchers a baseline measurement in the fight against the deadly white-nose syndrome. "Up until now, within the bulk of Alberta, the large hibernacula we have found are in the Rocky Mountains, so it's nice to find that this is the third-largest known hibernacula in the province," Dave Critchley of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bat Caver program told The…
  • New categories of dinosaur family tree proposed by scientists

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Some of the best-known dinosaurs, like Tyrannosaurus rex and Brontosaurus, may be headed for a divorce due to irreconcilable differences. Scientists on Wednesday proposed a radical overhaul of the dinosaur family tree first laid out in 1888, concluding after an analysis of 75 species that the meat-eating group that includes T. Source
  • Lip-reading program more accurate than humans could help hearing-impaired

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Lip-reading is a notoriously tricky task. But researchers at the University of Oxford in the U.K. have created a computer program called Watch, Attend and Spell to do just that. They claim their lip-reading algorithm is more accurate than human professionals. Source
  • Arctic sea ice at record low for third straight year

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Arctic sea ice is at a record low for the third straight year. The measurements from the U.S.-based National Snow and Ice Data Center say the ice reached its maximum extent on March 7. Source
  • Waste not on World Water Day: Bob McDonald

    Tech & Science CBC News
    This year's theme for the United Nations World Water Day is, "Why Waste Water?" As the world demands more and more of our most precious resource, and sources seem to be drying up, the UN says there is a huge untapped reservoir that could help to meet the demand: wastewater. Source
  • Google Maps to allow others to track your movements

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SAN FRANCISCO -- Google Maps users will soon be able to broadcast their movements to friends and family -- the latest test of how much privacy people are willing to sacrifice in an era of rampant sharing. Source
  • Earthquakes could cause Los Angeles area to sink abruptly: study

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The Big One may be overdue to hit California, but scientists near Los Angeles have found a new risk for the area during a major earthquake: abrupt sinking of land, potentially below sea level. The last known major quake on the San Andreas fault occurred in 1857, but three quakes over the last 2,000 years on nearby faults made ground just outside Los Angeles city limits sink as much as one metre, according to a study published Monday in the journal Scientific Reports. Source
  • Rusty-patched bumblebee first of species declared endangered in continental U.S.

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The rusty-patched bumblebee became the first officially endangered bee species in the continental U.S. on Tuesday, overcoming objections from some business interests and a last-minute delay ordered by the Trump administration. One of many bee types that have suffered steep population declines, the rusty-patched has disappeared from about 90 per cent of its range in the past 20 years. Source
  • Apple cuts prices on lower-end iPads, releases red iPhones

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK - Apple is cutting prices on two iPad models and introducing red iPhones, but the company held back on updating its higher-end iPad Pro tablets. A much-speculated 10.5-inch iPad Pro didn't materialize, nor did new versions of existing sizes in the Pro lineup, which is aimed at businesses and creative professionals. Source