NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Terry Virts have been given the green light for Sunday’s spacewalk despite Wednesday’s water leak in Virts’ suit.
During Wednesday’s spacewalk, NASA astronaut Terry Virts found a small amount of water in his helmet. He wasn’t in any danger. Virts noticed the water buildup and dampness in his helmet as he waited for the crew lock cabin to re-pressurize.
Virts quickly alerted astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti about the water and she passed on word to Mission Control in Houston.
“Terry was saying he’s got some water in his helmet, he just noticed it a minute ago,” European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti told flight controllers in Houston. “It’s about 3 inches in diameter, it’s kind of pooling on the front side of the helmet above his eye level, and he does feel a little bit of squishiness in the back of the HAP (helmet absorption pad).”
Cristoforetti said the HAP was moist, but not completely saturated. This indicates the leak didn’t occur until very late in the space walk.
Wednesday’s leak was nothing like the one that affected ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano in July 2013. Parmitano’s helmet had more than a liter of liquid in it and could have been fatal.
What’s interesting about Wednesday’s leak is the timing. The suit Virts was wearing had a similar water leak on December 24, 2013. NASA commentator Rob Navias said it was spotted at the same point back in 2013 as it was on Wednesday. At the time, the airlock’s pressure was holding at 5 pounds per square inch as the crew conducted routine post-spacewalk leak checks.
NASA has cleared the suit for use on Sunday’s spacewalk. Engineers understand the issue that caused the leak and say the suit is safe to use.
Sunday’s spacewalk is the last of three planned spacewalks by Virts and Wilmore. The pair are prepping a portion of the International Space Station for the arrival of America space taxis in the next few years.