It is perhaps time for NASA to ditch its getting older ISS spacesuits. The house company introduced a pause to all its spacewalks till it has a greater deal with on a lingering and horrifying concern that’s inflicting water to leak inside astronauts’ helmets.
The most recent incident occurred throughout an extravehicular exercise (EVA) in March, however this isn’t the primary time a helmet has stuffed up with water throughout a spacewalk—a doubtlessly life-threatening state of affairs for astronauts. NASA has raised considerations that the getting older spacesuits on board the ISS may not be usable anymore and that it could be time to swap them out for a more moderen mannequin at present in improvement. The spacesuits that NASA makes use of now are greater than 40 years outdated, and the company appears to be operating out of totally useful house fits; solely 18 usable models can be found on the ISS, in accordance with a 2017 report.
The latest water leak happened 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 house station. By the top of the seven-hour spacewalk, Maurer—who was venturing out on his first spacewalk—observed some water and dampness inside his visor. The astronaut took images for the bottom management staff to investigate, however the house 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 house company in gentle of the continued investigation into the water leak. “As a result of NASA is considering by means of the danger posture for these fits, that are getting older, 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 house 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 gained’t do a deliberate EVA till we’ve had an opportunity to essentially handle and rule out main system failure modes,” Weigel stated.
The suits can only be properly examined by engineers on Earth, so the agency is planning on sending them back during the upcoming SpaceX cargo Dragon mission in early June. Until then, NASA will consider the risk of conducting a spacewalk as opposed to the risk of ignoring a potential repair that might need to be done on the space station exterior. “We’ll have to look at risk versus risk,” Weigel said during the briefing.
The latest incident is one of a series of horrifying accounts of astronauts discovering water leaks in their suits while floating in space. Back in 2013, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano observed a water leak inside his helmet that pressured an early wrap-up to the spacewalk. Parmitano was in a position to re-enter the ISS airlock however was having issue respiratory as 1.5 liters of water had fashioned inside his helmet.
“I really feel it protecting the sponge on my earphones and I ponder whether I’ll lose audio contact. The water has additionally virtually fully coated the entrance of my visor, sticking to it and obscuring my imaginative and prescient,” Parmitano recounted in a chilling weblog publish later. “At that second, as I flip ‘upside-down’, two issues occur: the Solar units, and my capacity to see—already compromised by the water—fully 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 house. NASA astronaut Terry Virts donned spacesuit #3005, and after finishing the spacewalk he observed free-floating droplets of water and a humid 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 state of affairs with the water leaks, it’s not clear how NASA will deal with future spacewalks.