Wardrobe malfunctions can happen with every style of clothing. It’s just a little terrifying when it happens to an astronaut on a spacewalk.
NASA astronaut Terry Virts reported a floating blob of water inside his helmet Wednesday after completing a six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk to perform cable and lube work outside the International Space Station.
The amount of water was small and presented no danger to Virts, according to NASA. Virts and Expedition 42 crewmate Butch Wilmore were inside the space station with the hatches closed when, during depressurization of the airlock, Virts noticed the liquid.
Ground control and the space station crew are scheduled to perform a detailed evaluation Friday to determine whether Virts and another astronaut will perform a spacewalk scheduled for March 1.
The water was cold to the touch and had a chemical taste, NASA reported, leading the astronauts to believe the suit’s cooling system may have been the source of the leak.
Suit problems during spacewalks – also referred to as Extravehicular Activities or EVAs – are not uncommon. Neither NASA nor the Russian space program have lost astronauts as a direct result of a suit malfunction, according to a detailed history of EVAs by Space Safety Magazine.
Still, the water in Virts’ helmet is cause for some alarm because of a July 23 incident with Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, who aborted a spacewalk because his helmet was filling up with water and in danger of drowning him.
Cosmonaut Alexey Leonov, who will observe the 50th anniversary of his spacewalk being the first ever, had suit-pressurization problem that caused his suit to balloon. He couldn’t fit through the hatch.
He made the risky decision to partially depressurize the suit to get back inside the spacecraft. (Watch Leonov’s historic walk from March 18, 1965, in the video below.)
NASA astronaut Gene Cernan was on a two-hour spacewalk outside Gemini 9 in 1966 and reported struggling with his suit being too stiff. He unknowingly ripped outer layers of his suit, which exposed him to the sun’s rays and caused “hot spots” on his back.