There’s a big difference between me and astronauts, and it involves the amount of professional training required, not to mention overall space suit photogeneity. That’s an obvious statement, I know, but having familiarity with certain situations is underrated in my book.
Today was supposed to be the second spacewalk of the month for International Space Station (ISS) flight engineers Chris Cassidy of NASA and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency, but the repair mission was ended early and postponed until a later date. The reason? Just a little helmet leakage is all.
The spacewalk officially started this morning at 7:57 a.m. EDT, but just an hour into it, Parmitano reported there was water floating inside of his helmet, just behind his head. This is where that training comes in handy; if it had happened to me in my current state of non-astronautness, the question wouldn’t be if anyone could hear screaming in space, but if there was any way to make it stop.
The leakage wasn’t an emergency situation, and Parmitano was never in any danger, but Flight Director David Korth decided to halt the mission at that point. Both men went back to the airlock, which depressurized at 9:39 a.m. It was the 171st spacewalk intended for system assembly and maintenance, and its 1 hour and 32 minute duration made it the second shortest of all. Not the coolest silver medal to get, but at least no one got hurt.
Cassidy and Parmitano had a laundry list of tasks to complete, though none hold immediate urgency. A new Russian Multipurpose Lab Module will be rocketed to the ISS later this year, and in anticipation, the men were going to “replace a video camera on the Japanese Exposed Facility experiment platform, relocate wireless television camera equipment, troubleshoot a balky door cover over electronic relay boxes on the station’s truss and reconfigure a thermal insulation over a failed electronics box that was removed from the station’s truss last year.” Take a look at the spacewalk’s timeline below and try not to take for granted the around-the-house chores you deal with on a daily basis.
On July 9, both Cassidy and Parmitano performed a successful series of repairs to different areas of the exterior, and retrieved the Optical Reflector Materials Experiment III and the Payload Experiment Container, all of which will return to Earth later this year, after having assessed how processors and other materials are affected by the space environment.
There’s no set time for when the repairs will be finished, but there’s no real hurry, so they’ll probably make sure none of the helmets are leaking. It’s good to have specific things to look out for.
I can’t help but think if Chris Hadfield were still up there, we could expect a video about how water affects the back of the neck in space, and how to remove the water with a Silly Straw contraption.