NASA Creates Mishap Investigation Board for Luca's Spacesuit Malfunction

NASA Creates Mishap Investigation Board for Luca's Spacesuit Malfunction

NASA is still trying to determine what happened to European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Luca Parmitano’s spacesuit during a July 16 spacewalk.   Today it announced creation of a mishap investigation board to work in parallel with its ongoing engineering analysis.

Parmitano, usually referred to simply as Luca, was outside the International Space Station (ISS) performing a spacewalk with NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy.  The spacewalk was scheduled to last 6.5 hours, but was terminated after 1 hour 32 minutes because Luca’s helmet was filling with water.   What began as a small amount of water collecting behind his head grew to 1-1.5 liters of water inside the helmet covering his ears, affecting his eyes and hindering his ability to communicate.   He safely returned to the interior of the ISS and was helped out of his spacesuit by the other four ISS crewmembers who mopped up the water.

The announcement today indicates that NASA remains uncertain as to what caused the leak and wants a thorough review not only of this specific incident, but broader issues.  The mishap investigation board, chaired by ISS chief engineer Chris Hansen, will look at past operations and maintenance, quality assurance, flight control and organizational factors.  Meanwhile, the ongoing engineering analysis is focused on resolving equipment issues so that U.S. spacewalks can resume.   (Russia has its own spacesuits and a number of Russian spacewalks are planned for later this year.)

The other four members of the mishap investigation board are NASA astronaut Mike Foreman; Richard Fullerton from NASA Headquarters’ Office of Safety and Mission Assurance; Sudhakar Rajula, a human factors specialist at Johnson Space Center; and Joe Pellicciotti, chief engineer of NASA’s Engineering and Safety Center at Goddard Space Flight Center.  They will have access to experts and support personnel including a liaison from ESA.

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