NASA Astronaut Michael Hopkins Recounts The Horrific Incident When A Crew Member Almost Died During Spacewalk

Astronaut Michael Hopkins being helped by officials after his successful landing in Kazakhstan in March 2014.
Bill Ingalls/NASA / Getty Images

Recently, NASA astronaut Col. Michael Hopkins was at the Otago Museum Planetarium, New Zealand, to talk to young students of Dunedin School and inspire them by sharing some interesting stories about the life of astronauts.

Addressing the students, Col. Hopkins said lots of emotions go through the astronauts when they go out on a spacewalk for the first time.

“There’s the excitement of going out on a spacewalk, but then there’s also a little bit of that nervousness as well, about having to perform in the vacuum outside the space station,” Col. Hopkins said.

According to Otago Daily Times, Col. Hopkins, 49, talked about a horrific incident in which a crew member nearly died during a spacewalk due to malfunctioning of his spacesuit.

“That was clearly an emergency type of situation and they had to abort the mission and get him in as quickly as possible.”

Col. Hopkins was referring to the July 2013 incident when a spacesuit leak almost drowned Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano during his spacewalk. According to Space.com, the spacesuit helmet of Parmitano was flooded with cold water, which forced the ground staff to abort the spacewalk immediately.

Later, Parmitano revealed that the water in his helmet had covered his eyes, nose, ears, and part of his mouth, making it difficult for him to see, hear, breathe, and even communicate.

Col. Hopkins said when he arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) in September 2013, he was assigned the job of fixing that faulty spacesuit. It was a difficult task for him as those spacesuits were designed during the space shuttle era and could be better repaired on the ground only. Hopkins, however, managed to fix the spacesuit for a spacewalk.

He also revealed that NASA’s ground staff had not planned any spacewalk for him during his stay onboard the ISS, but when a cooling system on the ISS failed, the ground staff decided to send astronauts out to repair the system. The staff told Hopkins that he would be going out on a spacewalk and that he would be wearing the same spacesuit that he had recently fixed.

“That certainly makes you pause and think, OK I hope I did a good job.”

He said he was initially nervous about his first spacewalk but eventually performed it without any glitch.

According to NASA, Michael S. Hopkins, a Missouri native, completed his Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Stanford University in 1992 and then joined the U.S. Air Force as an officer. In 2009, he was selected by NASA for the 20th astronaut class.

Hopkins’ first space trip happened in 2013 as a member of the Expedition 37/38 crew. He was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in September 2013 and spent 166 days onboard the ISS before returning to Earth. During this space trip, he also performed two spacewalks to change out a faulty pump module.

Currently, Col. Hopkins supports the ISS operations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.