NASA Postponed ISS Spacewalk Over Spacesuit Water Leak: Are Astronauts Safe?

3rd Jul 2024
NASA Postponed ISS Spacewalk Over Spacesuit Water Leak: Are Astronauts Safe?

On 1st July, two NASA astronauts’ spacewalk at the International Space Station (ISS) was abruptly postponed when water began leaking from one of the spacesuits into the airlock. This was the second scheduled spacewalk by NASA astronauts aboard the space station to be interrupted recently.

What happened?

At 8:52 a.m. EDT, NASA astronauts Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Mike Barratt were told by Mission Control to stop their planned 6.5-hour spacewalk outside the ISS. They had already started the spacewalk at 8:46 a.m. by switching to the internal power in their suits. After the cancellation, the astronauts opened the hatch into the ISS at 9:51 a.m., officially ending the spacewalk.

“There’s water everywhere,” Tracy Dyson, one of the astronauts, reported to Mission Control.

“Arctic Blast” on Tracy Dyson’s spacesuit

The leak seemed to be coming from a servicing and cooling umbilical (SCU) on Dyson’s spacesuit, as she reported. 

“I got an arctic blast all over my visor,” Ms. Dyson said.

Image Credit: NASA

She wiped away a layer of ice and saw that ice crystals were coming from a service-and-cooling umbilical unit connected to her spacesuit. These connections provide power, oxygen, and water while astronauts are in the airlock. The leak started when Ms. Dyson disconnected the unit.

“I could see the ice crystals flowing out there,” Ms. Dyson said. “Just like a snow cone machine, there was ice forming at that port.”

Although the situation was serious, the astronauts were not in any danger due to the leak.

What was the purpose of this spacewalk?

Tracy Dyson and Mike Barratt were supposed to spend six and a half hours outside the space station. Their main tasks were to fix a broken electronics box on an antenna and gather samples from the outside of the station. The goal of their scientific research was to find out if tiny organisms could live in the tough, airless, and radiation-filled conditions of space.

Spacewalks postponed

The shortened spacewalk was the latest in a series of problems NASA faced in June. Other issues included an earlier postponed spacewalk and delays in returning two astronauts to Earth aboard the Boeing Starliner capsule, which is on its first trip to the space station with astronauts aboard.

This was also Ms. Dyson’s second interrupted spacewalk this month. She and another NASA astronaut, Matthew Dominick, who is also on the space station, had a spacewalk planned for 13th June. However, it was postponed due to Mr. Dominick experiencing a “spacesuit discomfort issue.”

What’s Next?

As a result of the spacesuit issues, NASA has postponed the next ISS spacewalk until the end of July.

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