12:03 20 December 2013 by Jacob Aron
1. Safety snorkel
During the spacewalks, the last of which takes place on Christmas day, Hopkins will be wearing the same spacesuit used by Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, who nearly drowned in July when his helmet started filling with water. Spacesuits contain water for both cooling and drinking. NASA investigators have since concluded that the most likely cause of Parmitano's problem was contamination in the cooling system that blocked a filter – but have yet to identify the exact source.
The relevant components have been cleaned and replaced, but NASA isn't taken any risks. The ISS astronauts have now fashioned snorkels from plastic tubes and Velcro already on the station. These will run internally from the front of the helmet to the chest of the spacesuit, allowing astronauts to breathe air from the lower part of the suit in the event of a leak filling the helmet. An absorbent pad on the back of the helmet will also soak up any free-floating water.
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