ISS spacewalk interrupted by suit malfunction

A Russian cosmonaut has just dealt with a rare space suit problem. As CNNis Jackie Wattles observed, Mission Control ordered Oleg Artemyev back to the International Space Station airlock after encountering a suit problem. While the exact nature of the problem was not clear at the time of this writing, NASA commentators noted a “slight fluctuation” in the suit’s battery performance. Artemyev returned safely, was connected to the station’s power supply and resumed operations.

We reached out to NASA for comment. In a statement to Space.com, spokesman Bob Navias said Artemyev was “never in any danger” when the anomaly occurred around 12 p.m. Eastern. Artemyev and his fellow Russian, Denis Matveev, were in the process of adding cameras and other equipment modifications to ESA’s robotic arm.

While this seems like a minor incident, it may have resulted in awkward flashbacks. Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano’s suit leaked during two spacewalks (the first initially went undetected) in July 2013. During the second mission, Parmitano’s helmet filled with water and made it difficult to breathe – his calm return to base may have helped, according to sources Saving lives to a NASA report. The incident prompted the agency to suspend all non-emergency spacewalks until the cause (a clogged filter) was isolated and action taken to prevent future crises.

Artemyev’s problem may not lead to a similar review. However, it underscores the ongoing fragility of space exploration. Even a seemingly minor problem can become serious in space, and mission teams don’t want to take chances.

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