Britain’s first official astronaut completed his inaugural spacewalk Friday outside the International Space Station.
But the historic sojourn was cut short after water leaked into another astronaut’s helmet.
Tim Peake, 43, began the momentous spacewalk early Friday morning to fix a broken electronic device on the exterior of the ISS called a voltage regulator.He was joined by American astronaut Timothy Kopra.
The spacewalk was scheduled to last six-and-a-half hours but was terminated after less than five hours after water began accumulating inside Kopra’s helmet.
The leak was not a life-threatening concern but NASA decided to end the spacewalk early in order to ensure Kopra’ safety.
Even with the early termination, the astronauts were able to complete their main task.
Symbolically, Peake’s trip outside the ISS was an important victory for the United Kingdom, where millions watched a live-stream of the mission.
“Today’s exhilarating spacewalk will be etched in my memory forever – quite an incredible feeling!” Peake tweeted after reentering the station. He has been at the ISS for six months.
Peake and Kopra had to work quickly and methodically to fix the regulator because they could work directly with the device only in the dark to avoid electric shocks.
ISS experiences just 31 minutes of darkness per day because of its rapid rotation around the earth.
The astronauts had been training for years for the spacewalk, called Extravehicular Activity. Both astronauts had used virtual reality to train for Friday’s tasks.
“The crew was never in any danger and returned to the airlock in an orderly fashion,” NASA wrote in a statement following the spacewalk. “The astronauts replaced a failed voltage regulator that caused a loss of power to one of the station’s eight power channels last November, accomplishing the major objective for this spacewalk.”