WASHINGTON, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, who barely survived his recent spacewalk outside the International Space Station, has described space as a "harsh and inhospitable frontier".
In a detailed account posted on his blog on his European Space Agency blog this week, Parmitano recalled his frightening experience on July 16, saying: "The skills of our engineers and the technology surrounding us make things appear simple when they are not, and perhaps we forget this sometimes."
Parmitano wrote he was in good spirits and "felt fully charged" when he set out on the mission with partner Chris Cassidy to lay wires for the arrival of a new Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module later this year and do some maintenance work.
Just as he was thinking about how to uncoil the cable neatly, he sensed something was wrong. "The unexpected sensation of water at the back of my neck surprises me, and I'm in a place where I'd rather not be surprised," he wrote.
Parmitano and Cassidy were both "convinced that it must be drinking water from the flask that has leaked out through the straw or it's sweat." But NASA, which oversaw the spacewalk, later rejected the speculation, saying engineers were focusing on the suit's backpack, which holds a water storage tank for a liquid-cooled undergarment.
As he moved, he became more and more certain the water was increasing. "The water has also almost completely covered the front of my visor, sticking to it and obscuring my vision," Parmitano recalled.
And as the minutes passed, "the upper part of the helmet is full of water and I can't even be sure that the next time I breathe I will fill my lungs with air and not liquid," he wrote.
Later he could hardly hear Cassidy talking from the audio earphone and he couldn't be heard either. But "moving with my eyes closed," he managed to get back inside the airlock and wait for his partner's return.
Parmitano and Cassidy, a NASA astronaut, were safely back in the space station and engineers were investigating the cause of the leak, the agency said.
NASA aborted the spacewalk, only 1 hour and 32 minutes into the planned 6.5-hour mission, making it the second shortest in the orbital laboratory's history.
The space agency has suspended all U.S. spacewalks until the investigation of the near-drowning incident is completed.
Two Russian astronauts carried out a spacewalk from the International Space Station on Thursday and installed a new telescope mount, although they encountered problems in tightening the antenna covers.
The Russians are continuing with their scheduled activities because they have different spacesuits, which include a chest-mounted LCD screen which provides directions while they are on spacewalks and when emergency occurs.
NSAS said its mission managers were rescheduling unfinished tasks, adding none of them were urgent and the crew and station were not in any danger.