Houston. We’ve had a problem

What happens when spacesuits go wrong?

Alexei Leonov, 1965

After leaving the Voskhod 2 spacecraft to perform the first ever spacewalk, cosmonaut Alexei Leonov’s suit began to swell due to the pressure difference. Within just 12 minutes of EVA, he became too big to fit back into the spacecraft so released some of the oxygen filling his suit through a valve, depressurising it enough to re-enter the spacecraft.

Luca Parmitano, 2013

While on a routine EVA, Parmitano was surprised to feel water on the back of his neck. A blockage in his spacesuit’s water separator led to a leak that started to fill his helmet and could have drowned him. Luckily, Parmitano was able to blindly make his way back to the safety of the airlock by memory.

Jerome 'Jay' Apt, 1991

Returning from his second spacewalk, Jay Apt removed his gloves only to find that a metal bar in his glove had somehow become loose and punctured a tiny hole in his suit – along with his hand – while out in space.

Chris Hadfield, 2001

On Hadfield’s first spacewalk, anti-fogging solution irritated his left eye and caused it to tear up. The ball of tears then hit his right eye, leaving him temporarily blinded. Luckily, his tears eventually flushed the irritant out. Vision restored, he was able to complete the spacewalk.

This article was originally published in How It Works issue 115

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