There are two things a spacewalker doesn't want to hear: "Can you turn it off and turn it on again?" and "What's that hissing sound?"
The IT solution of the ancients reached orbit yesterday as one of a pair of astronauts tasked with fitting a new solar array to the International Space Station (ISS) had to make his way back to the airlock in order to restart his spacesuit.
NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough was not in any great danger during what the US space agency delicately called an "issue" with his spacesuit's display and control module (designed to provide a spacewalker with information on the status of the suit). Controllers also noted a spike in the pressure reading for his sublimator (used to keep things cool) and so sent the astronaut back to the airlock to perform a restart.
Kimbrough connected his suit back to the ISS umbilicals for the restart and, when the teams ascertained the procedure was successful, returned to assist ESA's Thomas Pesquet in fitting the new ISS Roll-Out Solar Array (iROSA).
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- Holes patched in Russian segment of the ISS though pesky pressure loss continues
- Ground control? My space helmet is FILLING WITH WATER!
Kimbrough's unexpected suit troubleshooting and reboot, coupled with some other issues during the spacewalk, meant that the job took longer than expected (controllers had estimated the tasks to take six and a half hours, but the astronauts went 45 minutes over time).
A subsequent spacewalk on Sunday 20 June will likely need a little replanning to complete this first installation as well as fitting the next iROSA.
NASA's ISS spacesuits are getting on a bit. The design goes back to the era of the now-retired Space Shuttle and keeping what is on orbit in tiptop shape can be a challenge. Sizing has also given the agency a headache in recent years after a planned all-women spacewalk had to be postponed due to problems with fitting.
Other issues have included near disaster when liquid appeared in the helmet of ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano.
Still, yesterday's problem was resolved safely with a solution tried and tested by pretty much everybody in the IT world at one time or another. After all, in space, no one can see you Ctrl-Alt-Delete. ®