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ESA 'naut Parmitano aborts spacewalk after mystery leak

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Any day now you'll start to see pre-release hype for the George Clooney and Sandra Bullock vehicle Gravity, in which the pair star as astronauts cast adrift in space after a nasty accident interrupts a spacewalk.

We mention the flick as a nod to the notional truth/fiction differential, after NASA revealed a real spacewalk by an actual astronaut was aborted yesterday.

The cause was liquid in the helmet of Italian Astronaut Luca Parmitano, who yesterday took a giant leap for mankind by embarking on a spacewalk from the International Space Station. About an hour into the spacewalk, Parmitano complained of liquid in his helmet. So much liquid, in fact, that it was obscuring his vision, threatened to choke him and prevented communication with the ISS and terrestrial assistance.

Parmitano drank all the potable water in his suit's "drink bag", thinking it was the most obvious source of a leak and that if the water was inside him it couldn't float around inside his helmet.

But in the video below, NASA officials have said the drink bag doesn't seem to have been the culprit and the reason for the incident is currently unknown.

Some clues have emerged that hint at the real problem. Parmitano said the water tasted funny, which could suggest it was not water but the iodine-doped antibacterial coolant used to keep the drink bag cold. The astronaut's also reported to have said his extremities remained dry, a data point that will help to determine the likely site of the leak.

Whatever the cause of the problem, the spacewalk was ended after just 92 minutes, five hours short of the mission plan.

That's not all bad: a 92-minute spacewalk is a new record for the shortest such extra-vehicular excursion.


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NASA has promised to let us all know just what happened once it figures it out. ®

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