Feeds

NASA could have averted near DROWNING TERROR in SPACE

ISS 'naut Luca Parmitano's spacesuit had the same fault a week earlier

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

NASA could have prevented the near-drowning of International Space Station 'naut Luca Parmitano last summer, an investigation panel has decided.

The European Space Agency astronaut almost drowned when the helmet of his spacesuit started filling with water during a spacewalk in July. Parmitano managed to navigate his way back inside the station despite only being able to see a few centimetres in front of him through the water and being unable to communicate with the rest of the ISS crew. An estimated 1.5 litres of water filled Parmitano's helmet, stopping him from hearing or speaking and forcing him to rely on his safety tether to guide him back to the airlock.

An investigation panel reported that the same suit had already leaked one week earlier at the end of Parmitano's first spacewalk, but the space station team onboard and on the ground had misdiagnosed the problem as a leak from the water drink bag.

NASA's chief space station engineer Chris Hansen told the media that the first leak had not been "properly investigated, which could have prevented placing a crew member at risk a week later".

Officials still aren't sure exactly what caused the accident. They know that some sort of inorganic contaminants clogged several small holes that prevented water from flowing properly through the Fan Pump Separator - part of the suit's cooling system - causing it to back up and flow into the air system and the helmet. But the source of the contamination has yet to be determined.

The report said that this type of failure had never been seen before, so the NASA team – made up of engineering, operations, safety and crew – "did not know or understand that an event such as this could occur".

Because of that, they almost ended up with another accident the following day. While using a vacuum cleaner to dry out the spacesuit, the crew accidentally sucked oxygen out of a tank, making a "hazardous mix of electricity and pure O2" that could have started a fire aboard the station.

The investigation panel made a number of recommendations to remedy the situation, many of which are already complete or in progress, Hansen said.

According to the panel, Luca Parmitano's calm demeanour in a terrifying situation was possibly what saved his life. Parmitano blogged about the experience after returning to Earth, concluding that space was still "a harsh, inhospitable frontier and we are explorers, not colonisers". ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.