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The investigation into the spacesuit leak in July is now awaiting the return of equipment from ISS.
The station astronauts removed a cooling system pump and small contaminants found in the garment’s Primary Life Support System plumbing. The old fan pump separator and the preserved contaminants, including a 1-cm. piece of plastic, will return to Earth aboard Russia’s TMA-09M crew transport late Nov. 10 with Parmitano, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg and ISS Russian commander Fyodor Yurchikhin. The hardware and contaminants will then be flown by NASA transport from the Kazakh landing site to Johnson Space Center, where a Mishap Investigation Board (MIB) hopes to quickly complete its probe of the worrisome incident.
Though it appears they have narrowed the problem to a small number of components, the need to return these components to Earth illustrates an overall design flaw with the space spacesuit. When the shuttle was flying regularly these components were easy to return to Earth, which is why NASA designed its suit for maintenance on the ground. Now that the shuttle is gone, however, it is difficult to get components returned, which makes spacesuit maintenance difficult if not impossible.
Spacesuits need to be repairable in space. If you are orbiting Mars and one fails, you can’t call in a repairman from Earth to fix it.