Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev left the International Space Station on Wednesday for a routine spacewalk to work on the station’s European robotic arm. But a technical issue with Artemyev’s spacesuit that could have turned deadly sent him back early.
Artemyev’s Russian Orlan spacesuit experienced an unexpected voltage fluctuation in its battery power a little over two hours into what was supposed to be a nearly seven-hour spacewalk.
NASA TV carried a livestream of the spacewalk. At one point during the broadcast, a Roscosmos controller can be heard telling Artemyev to drop everything and return to the airlock as soon as possible to hook up to the station’s power. That signaled the urgency of the situation.
Tea ISS Twitter account reported the cosmonaut’s safe return.
According to a NASA update, “The duo was never in any danger during the operations.” But any spacesuit problem during a spacewalk is a cause for concern. The suits protect spacewalkers and provide life support while they’re exposed to the dangerous environment outside the station. There have been some close calls before, as when an astronaut’s helmet filled with water in 2013.
Matveev completed some tasks on the robotic arm before also returning to the airlock early.