NASA Suspends ISS Spacewalks, Spacesuits Leaking Water

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson is seen during a Jan.  6, 2017, spacewalk during Expedition 50 aboard the International Space Station.

There have been greater than 200 spacewalks outdoors the ISS because it launched in 1998.
Picture, NASA

It could be time for NASA to ditch its growing old ISS spacesuits. The area company introduced a pause to all its spacewalks till it has a greater deal with on a lingering and scary challenge that is inflicting water to leak inside astronauts’ helmets.

The most recent incident occurred throughout an extravehicular exercise (EVA) in March, however this is not the primary time a helmet has crammed up with water throughout a spacewalk—a probably life-threatening situation for astronauts. NASA has raised considerations that the growing old spacesuits on board the ISS won’t be usable anymore and that it might be time to swap them out for a more moderen mannequin at present in growth. The spacesuits that NASA makes use of now are greater than 40 years outdated, and the company appears to be operating out of totally purposeful area fits; solely 18 usable items can be found on the ISS, based on a 2017 report,

The newest water leak came about on March 23, when NASA astronaut Raja Chari and European House Company astronaut Matthias Maurer have been putting in hoses on a radiator beam valve module outdoors the area station. By the top of the seven-hour spacewalk, Maurer—who was venturing out on his first spacewalk—seen some water and dampness inside his visor. The astronaut took photographs for the bottom management workforce to research, however the area company stated the difficulty posed no menace to Maurer’s life.

Throughout a gathering of NASA’s Aerospace Security Advisory Panel final week, Susan Helms, a former NASA astronaut who serves on the panel, stated that spacewalks are on pause for the area company in mild of the continued investigation into the water leak. “As a result of NASA is considering by the danger posture for these fits, that are growing old, the [spacesuit] is at present no-go for deliberate EVAs pending an investigation into what they uncover,” she stated.

Dana Weigel, deputy supervisor of the area station program on the Johnson House Middle in Houston, later confirmed that the company was holding off on spacewalks throughout a Tuesday briefing on the upcoming Boeing CST-100 flight check, “We cannot do a deliberate EVA till we’ve had an opportunity to essentially tackle and rule out main system failure modes,” Weigel stated,

The fits can solely be correctly examined by engineers on Earth, so the company is planning on sending them again throughout the upcoming SpaceX cargo Dragon mission in early June. Till then, NASA will take into account the danger of conducting a spacewalk versus the danger of ignoring a possible restore that may should be completed on the area station exterior. “We’ll have to take a look at threat versus threat,” Weigel stated throughout the briefing.

The most recent incident is considered one of a collection of horrifying accounts of astronauts discovering water leaks of their fits whereas floating in area. Again in 2013, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano seen a water leak inside his helmet that compelled an early wrap-up to the spacewalk. Parmitano was capable of re-enter the ISS airlock however was having problem respiratory as 1.5 liters of water had shaped inside his helmet.

“I really feel it protecting the sponge on my earphones and I wonder if I will lose audio contact. The water has additionally virtually utterly lined the entrance of my visor, sticking to it and obscuring my imaginative and prescient,” Parmitano recounted in a chilling weblog submit later. “At that second, as I flip ‘upside-down’, two issues occur: the Solar units, and my capability to see—already compromised by the water—utterly vanishes, making my eyes ineffective; however worse than that, the water covers my nostril.”

That very same spacesuit was used for a spacewalk two years later, and almost drowned one other astronaut in area. NASA astronaut Terry Virts donned spacesuit #3005, and after finishing the spacewalk he seen free-floating droplets of water and a moist absorption pad in his helmet.

NASA unveiled shiny new spacesuits again in 2019 for astronauts to put on outdoors the ISS and for the company’s upcoming Artemis missions to the Moon, however funding shortages have delayed the fits’ deployment, The lifetime of the present spacesuits was accordingly prolonged to 2028. Given the scenario with the water leaks, it isn’t clear how NASA will deal with future spacewalks.

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