CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. —
Between 1 and 1 1/2 liters of water leaked into his helmet and suit, NASA estimated.
The source of the leak wasn’t immediately known, but the main culprit appeared to be iodine-laced water that is piped through the long underwear worn under a spacesuit, for cooling. The system holds nearly 4 liters, or 1 gallon. Less likely was the 32-ounce drink bag that astronauts sip from during lengthy spacewalks; Parmitano reported the leaking water tasted odd.
At first, Parmitano, 36, a former test pilot and Italy’s first spacewalker, thought it was sweat accumulating on the back of his bald head. But he was repeatedly assured it was not sweat. He agreed. “How much can I sweat?” he wondered aloud.
It was only his second spacewalk; his first was last Tuesday, six weeks after moving into the space station.
The water eventually got into Parmitano’s eyes. That’s when NASA ordered the two men back inside. Then the water drenched his nose and mouth, and he had trouble hearing on the radio lines.
Cassidy quickly cleaned up the work site once Parmitano was back in the air lock, then followed him in.
The three Russians and one American who anxiously monitored the drama from inside hustled to remove Parmitano’s helmet. They clustered around him, eight hands pulling off his helmet and using towels to mop his head. Balls of water floated away.
Parmitano blinked hard several times but otherwise looked fine as he gestured with his hands to show his crewmates where the water had crept around his head.
Cassidy told Mission Control: “To him, the water clearly did not taste like our normal drinking water.” A smiling Parmitano then chimed in: “Just so you know, I’m alive and I can answer those questions, too.”
He later tweeted: “Thanks for all the positive thoughts!”