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Luca Parmitano Discusses His Near-Fatal Spacewalk

by Kenny Hoeschen

Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano encountered a terrifying situation in his second spacewalk in July when water began accumulating in his helmet. He was forced to return to the airlock immediately due to the chance of inhaling the water and drowning. The video above is Parmatino discussing how a spacewalk works and the operations of the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU).

In his blog entry, Parmitano explains the details of what happened. Here’s a short excerpt of what he experienced:

“The unexpected sensation of water at the back of my neck surprises me – and I’m in a place where I’d rather not be surprised. Chris, who has just finished, is still nearby and he moves towards me to see if he can see anything and identify the source of the water in my helmet. At first, we’re both convinced that it must be drinking water from my flask that has leaked out through the straw, or else it’s sweat. But I think the liquid is too cold to be sweat, and more importantly, I can feel it increasing. I can’t see any liquid coming out of the drinking water valve either.

“As I move back along my route towards the airlock, I become more and more certain that the water is increasing…. The water has also almost completely covered the front of my visor, sticking to it and obscuring my vision.

“The water has also almost completely covered the front of my visor, sticking to it and obscuring my vision. … the water covers my nose – a really awful sensation that I make worse by my vain attempts to move the water by shaking my head. By now, the upper part of the helmet is full of water and I can’t even be sure that the next time I breathe I will fill my lungs with air and not liquid. To make matters worse, I realise that I can’t even understand which direction I should head in to get back to the airlock.

“Then I remember my safety cable. Its cable recoil mechanism has a force of around 3lb that will ‘pull’ me towards the left. It’s not much, but it’s the best idea I have…. I move for what seems like an eternity (but I know it’s just a few minutes). Finally, with a huge sense of relief, I peer through the curtain of water before my eyes and make out the thermal cover of the airlock: just a little further, and I’ll be safe…. Moving with my eyes closed, I manage to get inside and position myself to wait for Chris’ return.”

At the end, Parmitano, thankfully returned safely to the space station.

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