The Italian astronaut who nearly drowned in his helmet during a spacewalk last month is sharing more details about the terrifying experience, revealing how he felt all alone and frantically tried to come up with a plan to save himself.
Luca Parmitano wrote in his blog 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," he wrote.
Parmitano, 36, a major in the Italian air force making his second spacewalk, wasn't sure which direction to take 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 remembered his safety cable. He used the cable recoil mechanism to pull him back to the hatch.
He said it seemed like an eternity — not just a few minutes — until he peered through "the curtain of water before my eyes" and spotted the hatch. Cassidy was close behind. The astronauts inside quickly began repressurizing the air lock to get to the spacewalkers.
"Finally, with an unexpected wave of relief," Parmitano saw the internal door open, and the crew pulled his helmet off.
He remembers thanking his crew mates "without hearing their words because my ears and nose will still be full of water for a few minutes more."
NASA has traced the problem to his spacesuit backpack, which is full of life-support equipment. But the precise cause is still unknown as the investigation continues.