TECH

Nasa 'Could Have Prevented' Astronaut's Near-Drowning In Space Walk

27/02/2014 11:29 GMT | Updated 27/02/2014 11:59 GMT

Back in July an astronaut completing repairs on the International Space Station almost suffered a horrible - and bizarre - death hundreds of miles above Earth.

He almost drowned.

Now Nasa has admitted it could have prevented the near-disaster.

Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano suffered the traumatic incident when his space helmet filled with more than 1.5 litres of water 45 minutes into a space walk on July 16.

The "close call" was probably caused by a blocked water separator inside the 35-year-old space suit.

He made it back inside the space station in time to avoid major injury - but Nasa said he could have died as a result.

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The space agency also admits that his helmet had suffered a similar leak a week earlier, and that the team did not properly recognise the serious nature of the equipment failure and should have delayed the second space walk.

space walk nasa parmitano

Above: the suit after the incident

"The event was not properly investigated, which could have prevented putting a crew member at risk a week later," Chris Hansen, chairman of the Mishap Investigation Board, said.

A report into the incident made 49 recommendations to NASA, including ways to improve its safety procedures. Nasa said it had already "resolved" many of the problems, but that it welcomed the report and would remain "vigilant" in future space walks.

But the problems with the suits themselves appear to still be causing issues: a space walk in December - in which astronauts had snorkels inside their helmets - was ended early after an astronaut complained his feel were cold - and which turned out to have been caused by another water leak.