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NASA has put all spacewalks on hold while it resolves an alarming issue with the spacesuits on board the International Space Station.
The agency said Tuesday that helmets worn by astronauts have begun filling with water on multiple occasions in recent months.
It has put personnel in potentially life-threatening scenarios as they cling to the station’s exterior 250 miles above Earth.
According to CBS, the Nasa is investigating what led to excess water buildup in an astronaut’s helmet during a March excursion.
Officials told reporters that the spacesuits — “extra-vehicular mobility units,” or EMUs — remain available for emergencies.
“Until we understand better what the causal factors might have been during the last EVA with our EMU, we are no-go for nominal [extra-vehicular activity],” Nasa’s Dana Weigel said.
“So we won’t do a planned EVA until we’ve had a chance to really address and rule out major system failure modes.”
A number of astronauts have faced the terrifying ordeal of a helmet filling with water over the years.
In 2013, a spacewalk had to be cut short after European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano came close to drowning.
A Nasa report detailing the incident said that Parmitano was faced with “water covering his eyes, nose and ears.”
Since then, Nasa has installed small sponges into its EMU helmets to absorb any excess moisture.
While the Parmitano incident has yet to be repeated, German astronaut Matthias Maurer’s helmet filled with water during a March spacewalk.
“Roughly an eight- to 10-inch diameter circle, a thin film of water on the helmet,” Nasa astronaut Kayla Barron, who discovered the buildup, reported at the time.
“And there is water in his vent port at the back of his neck ring.”
Maurer’s suit will make its way back to Earth on a SpaceX cargo ship due to return in July.
Investigators will then examine the suit to determine what’s causing the issue. Until then, all future spacewalks are on hold.
Fortunately, officials “haven’t found anything unusual” so far, according to Weigel.
“We’re looking for any obvious signs of contamination or fouling or something else that might have gotten into our system.”
“We’re not seeing that yet,” she added.
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