Drowning in microgravity


Roamy posted a while back on the aborted spacewalk of Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano aboard the ISS.

Here’s an update to that story:

Luca Parmitano wrote in his online blog, posted Tuesday, that he could no longer see as the water sloshed around in his helmet outside the International Space Station.

“But worse than that, the water covers my nose – a really awful sensation that I make worse by my vain attempts to move the water by shaking my head,” the former test pilot wrote. “By now, the upper part of the helmet is full of water and I can’t even be sure that the next time I breathe I will fill my lungs with air and not liquid.”

Parmitano, 36, a major in the Italian Air Force making just his second spacewalk, wasn’t sure which direction to head to reach the station’s hatch. He tried to contact his spacewalking partner, American Christopher Cassidy, and Mission Control. Their voices grew faint, and no one could hear him.

“I’m alone. I frantically think of a plan. It’s vital that I get inside as quickly as possible,” he wrote.

Parmitano realized Cassidy – making his way back to the air lock by a different route – could come get him. “But how much time do I have? It’s impossible to know,” he said.

If you’ve ever come close to drowning, it’s a terrifying experience. Kudos to Major Parmitano for keeping his cool under extraordinary circumstances.

“Space is a harsh, inhospitable frontier and we are explorers, not colonisers,” he wrote. “The skills of our engineers and the technology surrounding us make things appear simple when they are not, and perhaps we forget this sometimes.

“Better not to forget.”

Wiser words. When Roamy kindly hosted me at the Marshall Space Flight Center, one of the things that struck me was just how many different ways the harsh environment of space could find myriad ways of killing you.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Drowning in microgravity

  1. Heh, you beat me to it. I was going to link Luca’s blog. http://blogs.esa.int/luca-parmitano/ This was all the talk around the coffeepot today, especially how well he kept his cool.

    I start to move, all the while thinking about how to eliminate the water if it were to reach my mouth. The only idea I can think of is to open the safety valve by my left ear: if I create controlled depressurisation, I should manage to let out some of the water, at least until it freezes through sublimation, which would stop the flow. But making a ‘hole’ in my spacesuit really would be a last resort.

    (shudder)