Officials on the ground gave Artemyev several warnings that he needed to return to the airlock.
“Drop everything and start going back right away,” was one of the last dispatches from the ground before Artemyev confirmed he was headed for the airlock. A few minutes later, he was able to re-enter the space station and hook his suit up to its power.
Cosmonaut Denis Matveev, who was working alongside Artemyev on the spacewalk, remained just outside the space station’s airlock for more than an hour until flight controllers decided to end the spacewalk early because of Artemyev’s spacesuit issues.
A Russian translator said on the livestream that Artemyev jokingly told flight controllers that he felt “better than when he started the spacewalk” after returning to the ISS.
Spacewalks are regular occurrences on the ISS, as astronauts and cosmonauts — the Russian term for astronaut — routinely need to exit the space station for maintenance, science experiments and other tasks. More than 250 spacewalks have been conducted outside the orbiting laboratory since it entered service about two decades ago, and they typically go off without a hitch.
This was the seventh spacewalk for Artemyev and the third for Matveev. Both men were wearing Russian-made Orlan spacesuits. There are also US-made EMU, or Extravehicular Mobility Unit, spacesuits onboard the ISS for spacewalks.
Both types of suits are designed to be entirely self-contained, providing all the air providing the sole barrier between astronauts and the deadly vacuum of space during spacewalks. They’re equipped with communications equipment, ventilation, and enough air for the astronauts to breathe for hours on end.