Astronauts stop going into space because of a water leak in a suit

NASA is delaying the next off-vehicle excursions over fears of a suit leaking. Astronaut Matthias Maurer discovered water in his helmet in March.

Wondering when the next spacewalk for astronauts will be? Patience may be required before seeing Westerners roaming around the International Space Station (ISS): The US space agency is about to slow down after worrying about a suit.

Unusual traces of water in the helmet

That time limit was fanned back on May 18 by the SpaceNews website, based on comments made during a May 12 meeting of NASA’s Aerospace Security Advisory Committee. We learned that NASA temporarily put its exits from the ISS on hold after water had been spotted near a helmet.

Numerama has just been confirmed by NASA. ” No US segment spacewalks are planned for the near future as part of normal station operations, and a formal review of the team’s findings will be conducted before scheduled spacewalks resume. said a representative of the agency.

“No spacewalks of the American segment are planned in the near future”

This measure only affects American astronauts, i.e. Kjell N. Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins. It is also the regime to which the Italian Samantha Cristoforetti, who works closely with NASA as part of the partnership with the European Space Agency, must submit. The last outing (“EVA”) dates back to March 23rd.

Westerners’ instructions obviously do not apply to the three Russians currently on the ISS, as they are not dependent on the American segment. Sergei Korsakov, Denis Matveïev and Oleg Artemiev therefore always have the opportunity to go on their own excursions as cosmonauts. They also led the last two on April 18th and 28th.

What happened to make NASA make such a stop? The problem dates back exactly to March 23rd. At that time, an EVA was driven by the American Raja Chari and the German Matthias Maurer – both able to complete it after a drive of almost seven hours – to carry out various maintenance and repair work on the ISS.

Matthias Maurer, July 2016. // Source: Matthias Maurer

However, after this long excursion, described as ” blow from NASA,” A thin layer of water was discovered on the inside of the helmet and on an absorption pad in the helmet of astronaut Matthias Maurer “, We were told. These traces were discovered after the airlock was repressurized at the end of the mission.

The amount of water found was greater than normal ‘ adds NASA. Since then, it has also been a relative cause for concern “The space station crew expedited the removal of Maurer’s helmet and then collected data in coordination with ground support teams “. In the meantime, Matthias Maurer has returned to Earth without further problems.

Therefore, while waiting to learn more, NASA is hesitant – unless it was obviously necessary to perform a critical EVA for the proper functioning of the ISS. With the crew aboard the station having limited resources to examine the suit, it must be returned to Earth during the next resupply rotation, scheduled for early June.

Fortunately, space suit incidents don’t happen on every spacewalk, but they do happen every once in a while.

In 2013, Italian Luca Parmitano had the same problem with his helmet. Ditto 2016 with the American Timothy Kopra. Other issues may arise, such as in 2021 with a pressure surge in Shane Kimbrough’s suit, who was traveling with Thomas Pesquet. Fortunately, no serious incident has been observed so far.

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