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NASA OKs Sunday Spacewalk, Says Astronaut Helmet Water Leak Not a Threat

NASA says a small amount of water that leaked into an astronaut's helmet after a spacewalk on Wednesday poses no threat.
/ Source: Reuters

A tiny bit of water that leaked into an astronaut’s helmet after a spacewalk on Wednesday poses no threat, clearing the way for another outing Sunday to rig the International Space Station for new space taxis, NASA said on Friday. Space station flight engineer Terry Virts was back in the station’s airlock on Wednesday following a successful spacewalk when he noticed moisture in his helmet. Virts, who was making his second spacewalk in a week, was never in any danger, NASA said. Engineers believe that about 0.5 ounce (15 ml) of condensation seeped into Virts' helmet as the airlock was repressurized. "It doesn’t always happen. It often depends on how cool the crew member's spacesuit is," Alex Kaneloakos, lead spacewalk officer, said during a NASA Television interview on Friday. Mission managers believe they understand the quirks with this older suit and insist it is safe to use for Sunday's spacewalk. There have been seven other similar instances on this particular suit, Kanelakos said. "It's a known feature," he said. Another astronaut nearly drowned during a July 2013 spacewalk due to a helmet leak. That outing was hastily aborted and NASA suspended spacewalks while engineers tried to figure out the cause.

On Sunday's third scheduled outing, Virts and spacewalk partner Barry "Butch" Wilmore, the station’s commander, are to prepare parking spots for commercial space taxis under development by Boeing and privately owned SpaceX. The astronauts plan to install a communications system the visiting vehicles will use to navigate to the station. They will install another 400 feet of cable as well as two antennas. About 364 feet of power and data lines were laid during the first two spacewalks, last Saturday and Wednesday.



— Reuters and The Associated Press