A spacewalk that was intended to be nearly seven-hour long was abruptly cut short after Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev was repeatedly ordered to drop what he was working on and return to the International Space Station’s airlock because of an issue with his spacesuit.
During a livestream, NASA officials said that Artemyev was never in any danger. However, flight controllers became increasingly worried when the battery pack that powers his spacesuit began to falter and urgently ordered him to return to the space station and attach his suit to ISS power.
The battery issues were causing “voltage fluctuations” in Artemyev’s spacesuit, according to commentary on the spacewalk livestream.
“Drop everything and start going back right away,” they ordered Artemyev who then headed for the airlock. A few minutes later, he was able to re-enter the space station and hook his suit up to its power.
Cosmonaut Denis Matveev, who was working alongside Artemyev on the spacewalk, remained just outside the space station’s airlock for more than an hour until flight controllers decided to end the spacewalk early because of Artemyev’s spacesuit issues.
This was the seventh spacewalk for Artemyev and the third for Matveev, according to the Associated Press. Both men were wearing Russian-made Orlan spacesuits. There are also US-made EMU, or Extravehicular Mobility Unit, spacesuits onboard the ISS for spacewalks.
Both types of suits are designed to be entirely self-contained, providing the sole barrier between astronauts and the deadly vacuum of space during spacewalks. They’re equipped with communications equipment, ventilation, and enough air for the astronauts to breathe for hours on end.
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