There are few fears that can top the fear of drowning. Actually, there is. The fear of drowning in space.
And that fear was a very real and terrifying possibility for Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano during what should have been a "routine" extravehicular activity (EVA) earlier this month.
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Although it's hard to imagine anything being "routine" while orbiting 260 miles over Earth inside a football pitch-sized outpost, the astronauts and cosmonauts who live and work on the International Space Station are highly trained individuals who have an acute attention to detail. So when something does go wrong on the space station, there's no better people to deal with it. But during this particular spacewalk, the universe threw Parmitano a curve ball.
On July 16, Parmitano was working with NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy on the space station's exterior. But less than an hour into the mission, Parmitano, who became Italy's first spacewalker during a previous EVA, reported excess fluid was building up inside his helmet. As the problem worsened, NASA mission control told the pair to return to the airlock as soon as possible.