Russian drama in the middle of a spacewalk: “Oleg, drop everything and come back!”
A Russian cosmonaut working outside the International Space Station returned to the lab’s locker on Wednesday.
Oleg Artemyev was about three hours into a six-hour spacewalk when his suit’s battery voltage began to drop, prompting controllers in Moscow to order the astronaut to return immediately to the space station’s airlock.
“Oleg, you must return to the airlock as soon as possible. Because if you lose power, it’s not just pumps and fans, you lose communications. So you have to go back,” a controller told Artemyev, heard on a live audio feed between space and Earth. “Oleg, drop everything and come back,” he continued. “Drop everything and come back immediately … go back and connect to the station’s power.”
Artemyev returned to the airport and connected his suit to the power of the space station.
He added, “I already have my feet on the hand. (…) I think Orlon (spacesuit) needs some solar panels so that it can be recharged during EVA (extravehicular activity).
NASA said Matveev stayed outside for an hour or so before he too was ordered back. Matveev’s suit was fine, but Russian mission control halted the spaceflight Airline rules emphasize the buddy system.
Artemyev was “never in danger,” NASA spokesman Rob Navias said.
Astronauts were able to install cameras on the European Space Agency’s new robotic arms, two hours into the planned six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk, before problems arose.
“You know, the beginning was great.”When Matveev went back inside, he said, some of the robotic arm installation work had malfunctioned.
A 36-foot (11-meter) robotic arm arrived at the space station last summer at a Russian laboratory.
NASA space missions have been suspended for months.
In March, water leaked into a German astronaut’s helmet. It wasn’t as big a leak as the one that nearly drowned an Italian astronaut in 2013, but it still posed a safety concern. In the former case, the water came from the cooling system of the suit’s underwear.
The spacesuit, which failed in March, will return to Earth this week aboard a SpaceX capsule for further investigation.
The space station has been hosting international astronauts for more than two decades.
(With information from Reuters, AP and AFP)