Helmet leak cuts short first spacewalk by Briton

Cape Canaveral, Florida: NASA has cut short a spacewalk at the International Space Station after an astronaut reported a leak in his spacesuit helmet.

Tim Peake, who on the mission became the first astronaut from Britain to walk in space, and US astronaut Tim Kopra had finished the primary goal of their outing when Mr Kopra reported a water ball had formed in his helmet.

Up Next

The battery revolution

Video duration

More Tech Talk Videos

Water in helmet cuts spacewalk short

NASA astronaut Tim Kopra makes his way back inside the International Space Station after a water leak is detected inside his helmet.

The astronauts were in no danger, but NASA curtailed the spacewalk as a precaution, flight director Royce Renfrew said during an interview on NASA TV on Friday.

Mr Peake, 43, a former army major, blasted off to the station as part of a six-month mission for the European Space Agency in December, becoming the first Briton in space since Helen Sharman travelled on a Soviet spacecraft for eight days in 1991, and the first to do so under a British flag.

His mission has attracted widespread attention in Britain, with news channels beaming live coverage of the spacewalk.

"We're all watching, no pressure! Wishing you a happy stroll outdoors in the universe," British musician Sir Paul McCartney said on Twitter.


Nearly five hours into Friday's spacewalk, Kopra, 52, reported that his helmet pad was damp and a ball of water had collected in his helmet, prompting NASA to end the mission.

The leak increased as Mr Kopra and Mr Peake returned to the airlock.

"It was quite noticeable," Mr Kopra later told ground controllers.

NASA tightened its flight rules after a spacesuit worn by Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano​ leaked during a spacewalk in July 2013, nearly causing him to drown.

NASA eventually tracked down the source of the problem and outfitted the helmets with absorption pads and breathing snorkels as additional safety measures.

Chief astronaut Chris Cassidy, who was Mr Parmitano's partner during the aborted 2013 spacewalk, said the cold temperature of the water indicated a leak from somewhere in the spacesuit's backpack, which contains a cooling system.

In an interview on NASA TV, Mr Cassidy called it "a significant concern".

Mr Kopra and Mr Peake had replaced a failed voltage regulator in the station's power system shortly after leaving the station's airlock about 8am (midnight AEDT).

They were scheduled to spend more than six hours outside the station, a $US100 billion ($146 billion) research laboratory that flies about 400 kilometres above Earth, on other maintenance chores.

That work would be rescheduled, NASA said.


Follow FairfaxForeign on Twitter

Follow FairfaxForeign on Facebook