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Cosmonaut forced to return to space station after spacesuit malfunction

Cosmonaut forced to return to space station after spacesuit malfunction

"Drop everything and start going back right away"

A cosmonaut was forced to return to the International Space Station after suffering a worrying malfunction with his spacesuit. 

Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev started what was supposed to be a six-and-a-half hour spacewalk today, 17 August. 

However, just over two hours into their expedition, Artemyev was told to ‘drop everything’ and return to the airlock after experiencing an electrical problem with his spacesuit

The pair had originally ventured outside of the orbiting space station to continue equipping its European Robotic Arm, which was delivered to the Russian segment of the ISS last year. 

Although the cosmonauts, who are both part of Russia’s federal space corporation Roscosmos, were able to successfully install two cameras to the robotic arm, the other upgrades had to be put on hold. 

Tense footage from NASA’s livestream shows the moment Vladimir Solovyov, the flight director for the space station's Russian segment, tells Artemyev over the radio: “Drop everything and start going back right away. Oleg, go back and connect to station power."

Shortly after, Artemyev confirmed he had returned safely to the airlock and had plugged his suit back into power, while Matveev waited outside for more than an hour before the spacewalk was postponed due to the issue. 

Oleg Artemyev was able to safely return to the ISS.
Creative Commons

According to the NASA Houston control commentary, there had been a ‘slight fluctuation in the battery power of his suit’, although they reassured that he was ‘never in any danger’.

A Russian translator even revealed that Artemyev joked he felt ‘better than when he started the spacewalk’ once he’d returned to the ISS. 

Nonetheless, the outcome doesn’t make the clip any less tense, especially given the cosmonauts had been working in the darkness of space, with the only light coming from their suits. 

Prior to the news that the spacewalk had been cancelled, numerous officials kept people updated with the situation, including Chris Bergin, NASA Space Flight’s managing editor.

“Artemyev is back inside Poisk - on Station power - and sounds fine,” he tweeted earlier today. “Matveev is still outside, and waiting for controllers to work on the forward plan. They got to 2.5 hours into the EVA.”

Meanwhile, CBS News space consultant William Harwood wrote: “Artemyev's suit is not showing normal power levels; it's clear there's no emergency, but not yet clear if today's spacewalk will continue.”

He later added: “Russian flight control to cosmonauts: ‘Good job. The main objectives have been achieved. Tomorrow we will do a debrief at 8 o'clock your time’.”

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Featured Image Credit: NASA

Topics: Space, Russia, International Space Station, NASA