While waiting to learn more about the new fluid leak that occurred during the full voyage last March, NASA had to resign itself to suspend all regular missions for its astronauts until further notice.
This is official: NASA is reluctant to announce to all its astronauts the cessation of regular space missions for at least several months. The reason given: After so many important events, she can no longer trust her clothes, some of which have endangered the lives of astronauts.
In the immediate future, all spacewalks (EVAs) that are not considered absolutely necessary will be postponed indefinitely. So the American astronauts would go out only if the International Space Station needed urgent repairs; In the absence of priority work, there is no question of stepping out of the station until further notice.
“Until we have a better understanding of what happened in the last EVA, we will no longer be dating.Dana Weigel, one of the people involved in the management of the station quoted, confirms. Space.com. This interval should at least last until next July. Only on this date will defective or suspicious compounds be returned to Earth for analysis. From there, it takes a few weeks to determine for sure the origin of the failure.
New fluid leak that triggers old shock
This result is directly linked to the series of crashes that began in the concerned astronauts and gave cold sweat to NASA crews. The last event of its kind took place on March 23, and was paid for by German ESA astronaut Matthias Mauer.
As he exited, the temperature regulatory system of his EMU (Extravecular Mobility Unit) suit broke down. So the person concerned saw a water leak in his sealed helmet; An apparent crisis situation in the vacuum of space. This represents a direct danger to the astronaut, leaving him to his own devices and gradually being locked in a jar that is filled. This fluid may have leaked into other subsystems; A situation that can lead to dramatic failure of communications or oxygen recycling system, with all consequences.
And unfortunately this is not an isolated incident. In 2013, Italian Luca Permitano found himself in the same situation and was accidentally captured on video. “My head is very wet and I feel like it is getting worseHe promised the control team 400 kilometers down.
A cold testimony that impressed NASA; After a few tests and exchanges of views, as if confused, the officers ended up interrupting the mission in an emergency. It took them. Fortunately, the astronaut was able to remain calm because the situation could easily have a dramatic effect.
“The fluid completely covered my eyes and nose. It was so hard to see. I did not ask for anything. Communication was very difficult. I came back the other way from memory, looking back until I found the airlock”, About the astronaut after the incident.
A survey next July
Although this problem is rare, it is still a major concern for NASA due to the ruthless environment in which astronauts develop. “Of all the problems we have encountered so far in EVA, this is the most seriousChris Hanson, who was in charge of the investigative team that administered the Burmitano case at the time, confirmed. “I am not aware of any other malfunction indicating such risk”.
At the time, NASA also decided to intercept aliens until investigators shed light on the case. At the end of their investigation, they determined that the leak was related to one The filter is clogged with silica. Following a malfunction at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) water treatment plant in Houston, the contaminant is believed to have entered the suite circulating throughout the suite to prevent the sun-roasted astronaut.
The analysis, scheduled for next July, will determine whether this happened again to the false adventure of Matthias Maurer. “We look for any signs of contamination, damage or any other obviousDana Weigel, Project Manager, JSC, explains. Until then, NASA will send absorbent plates to control the risk during essential missions. But it is like treating a large open wound with a sticky plaster; This counter-action will not solve the root of the problemAnd NASA is well aware of this.
It’s time to dump her and move on
Of concern is that these compounds are truly antique items. The overall design of these EMUs dates back to 1983, almost 50 years ago! These combinations were definitely updated in 2002, but the results remain the same. NASA needs a wardrobe update. When you factor these failures into the equation, it starts to seem like a complete emergency. “The plan is to continue using these emus until 2028; But it is becoming more and more clear that their effective lifespan is short“, Agreed a NASA report Released in January.
NASA has been working on this for many years already. He has already put forward his plans New generation vetsuits, called xEMU. She has long-term plans that still impress. For example, the agency has released a scanner program that makes it possible to measure and customize suits using 3D printing (see Our post)
But presenting compelling ideas is one thing, getting into business is another. For now, it looks more like this next generation of clothes Far from seeing daylight. For good reason: The design of such technical stones is a very engineering challenge.
Great puzzle and tight time
In essence this type of compound is neither more nor less than a The actual spacecraft in human size and shape. But unlike a structure like the ISS, EMUs need to be flexible and lightweight. Otherwise, the astronauts will not be allowed to move properly. However, it is very difficult to ensure the tightness and thermal insulation of the astronauts.
These technological restrictions put considerable pressure on NASA. After all, she could not imagine sending astronauts back to capture the moon on the same devices she did then. These combinations do not exist Simply not mobile and adequately fitted to the Artemis 3. This would be a much more complicated task than what Armstrong and others have been told.
However, the deadline is approaching soon. Unlike the xEMU program, it seems to have stalled, having already swallowed nearly $ 500 million. NASA has already announced that it will postpone the Artemis 3 from 2024 to 2025 for this reason.See our article) NASA plans to finalize xEMUs for 2025 as of now.soon”. The already seemingly ambitious date to meet is based on the program’s track record. Guarantees that the curve will be tight
It is so It is not excluded that the agency will once again be forced to postpone the deadline. Remember that NASA is relying now Departing in 2026. A new report following the delays created by the legal blows of the Blue Origin; Jeff Bezos’ company has been shutting down the project for weeks over its claims. “The HLS affair”. (See Our post)
Is that very reasonable for Artemis 3?
To avoid another delay, the agency should significantly accelerate the growth of these garments. Otherwise, there would not even be time to test them upstream. He has already made an important decision in this direction. Last year, it began calling for tenders targeting the private sector. (See Our post) Objective: To identify partners that can create subsystems of the mix. These include, for example, temperature and pressure regulation systems, as well as oxygen recycling.
But if the program is actually on site, it may be prompted to subcontract the whole mix. The attitude, which seems to please Elon Musk, is not surprising. The millionaire had suggested on Twitter that he could take care of SpaceX. This idea is not so absurd as SpaceX is already an integral part of the program. In fact, she is responsible for creating the human landing system. This is the lander that will land the Artemis 3 astronauts on our satellite.
SpaceX can do that if needed
– Elon Musk (elonmusk) August 10, 2021
But whether NASA outsources the product or not, the result remains the same. There is an urgent need to put the existing emus in the closet once. Whichever route you take, that agency needs to get there quickly. So it will be interesting to follow the findings of the Commission of Inquiry this summer. Because even if no astronaut has been injured so far, it is obviously a possibility that should be ruled out at all costs. For the safety of the astronauts of Artemis 3, but also for the safety of those who risked their lives aboard the ISS today.