AP: Helmet water leak aborts spacewalk; astronaut OK

Jul. 16, 2013 @ 03:51 PM

NASA aborted a spacewalk at the International Space Station on Tuesday because of a dangerous water leak in an astronaut's helmet that drenched his eyes, nose and mouth.

The leak was so bad that Luca Parmitano, Italy's first spacewalker, couldn't hear or speak as the spacewalk came to an abrupt end.

He asked his spacewalking partner, Christopher Cassidy, for help getting back in.

"He looks miserable. But OK," Cassidy assured Mission Control in Houston.

The source of the leak wasn't immediately known but a possible culprit was the helmet drink bag that astronauts sip from during spacewalks, although Parmitano later reported the water had an odd taste. Water also is piped through the long underwear worn under a spacesuit, for cooling.

Parmitano reported, "It's a lot of water," before he could no longer talk. His crewmates quickly yanked off his helmet, once he was back inside.

NASA seldom cuts a spacewalk short. Tuesday's problem left them with no choice. Parmitano could have choked on the floating water droplets in his helmet.

The trouble cropped up barely an hour into what was to be a six-hour spacewalk to perform cable work and other routine maintenance that had stacked up over the past couple years.

It was the astronauts' second spacewalk in eight days.