Astronaut describes terror of near-death moment

ninemsn staff
3:28pm August 21, 2013
July 17, 2013: A serious water leak inside Luca Parmitano’s helmet forced NASA to cut short a spacewalk.

An Italian astronaut has described in detail the terrifying moment his helmet began filling up with water during a spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS).

Luca Parmitano was connecting a series of cables to sockets on the exterior of the ISS in July when he began to feel cold water against the back of his neck.

In a lengthy blog article posted online yesterday, Major Parmitano detailed how the upper-half of his helmet began to fill up with water, partially blinding him and covering the sponge of his earphones.

In an attempt to get over an antenna while scrambling back to the airlock, Major Parmitano described the moment he feared he had taken his last breath.

"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," he wrote.

"By now, the upper part of the helmet is full of water and I can’t even be sure that the next time I breathe I will fill my lungs with air and not liquid."

Astronaut Karen Nyberg demonstrates how she washes her haironboard the International Space Station. All rights to NASA.

As Major Parmitano blindly worked his way back to the airlock and safety, he considered having to open a valve in his suit.

"If I create controlled depressurisation, I should manage to let out some of the water, at least until it freezes through sublimation, which would stop the flow," he said.

"But making a 'hole' in my spacesuit really would be a last resort."

Eventually he managed to get back inside the ISS and after depressurisation was able to take the helmet off.

It has still not been determined what caused the leak.

Major Parmitano is the first Italian to walk in space.

Author: Nick Pearson. Approving editor: Matthew Henry.

Sources: European Space Agency

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