Luca Shares Chilling Details of Spacesuit Leak Ordeal – "Like a Goldfish in a Fishbowl"

Luca Shares Chilling Details of Spacesuit Leak Ordeal – "Like a Goldfish in a Fishbowl"

European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Luca Parmitano shares chilling details of what transpired on July 16, 2013  when his spacesuit helmet filled with water during a spacewalk in a blog entry today.   ESA released a video to accompany it with an interview with Luca (as he is commonly called) and his spacewalk partner NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy.

In his riveting blog post, Luca begins by talking about the excitement of exiting the hatch and beginning the spacewalk — or extravehicular activity (EVA).  After completing some of the tasks, he senses water building up behind his head.   Cassidy comes to take a look and it becomes clear this is not just sweat or a leak from the water bottle inside the suit, but something worse.   Ground controllers decide to terminate the EVA and Luca heads back to the airlock while Cassidy must take a different route back because of the location of his tether.   As the amount of water inside Luca’s helmet increases, it sticks to the inside of his visor, limiting his sight, and covers his ears, hampering his ability to hear.   Just then, he must turn his body to avoid an obstacle.  This is what happens next:

“At that moment, as I turn ‘upside down’, two things happen: the Sun sets, and my ability to see — already compromised by the water — completely vanishes, making my eyes useless; but worse than that, the water covers my nose — a really awful sensation that I make worse by my vain attempts to move the water by shaking my head.  By now, the upper part of the helmet is full of water and I can’t be sure that the next time I breathe I will fill my lungs with air and not liquid.”

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending, but his account is compelling and underscores just how risky human spaceflight can be — and what the “right stuff” is.

The ESA video intersperses audio and video from the events that day with an interview with Luca, Cassidy and NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg (though she does not speak in the segment ESA released).   Cassidy shows the helmet and where the water accumulated.  

As Luca says, he experienced what it was like “to be a goldfish in a fishbowl from the point of view of the goldfish.”

NASA is still trying to determine exactly what went wrong.  It knows that the source of the liquid was the spacesuit’s cooling system, but has not found the root cause.



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