published Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Astronaut OK after helmet water leak aborts spacewalk

In this image from video made available by NASA, astronauts discuss the aborted spacewalk aboard the International Space Station on Tuesday, July 16, 2013. A dangerous water leak in the helmet of Luca Parmitano, bottom center facing camera in white suit, drenched his eyes, nose and mouth, preventing him from hearing or speaking as what should have been a routine spacewalk came to an abrupt end.
In this image from video made available by NASA, astronauts discuss the aborted spacewalk aboard the International Space Station on Tuesday, July 16, 2013. A dangerous water leak in the helmet of Luca Parmitano, bottom center facing camera in white suit, drenched his eyes, nose and mouth, preventing him from hearing or speaking as what should have been a routine spacewalk came to an abrupt end.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA still doesn’t know exactly how water gushed into the helmet and suit of a spacewalking astronaut.

Mission Control officials acknowledged Tuesday that Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano could have choked or even drowned from all the water that accumulated in his helmet.

His spacewalk was aborted soon after the problem cropped up, and he made it back safely inside with help from his spacewalking partner, American Christopher Cassidy.

NASA says between one and one-and-a-half liters leaked into Parmitano’s suit. Officials doubt his drinking water bag is to blame. The only other possibility is water from his garment cooling system.

The spacewalk lasted just 1 1/2 hours and was one of the most harrowing in decades. Officials described Italy’s first spacewalker, as “grace under pressure.”

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