According to Vladimir Solovyov, the head of the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS), specialists at mission control in Russia have not yet discovered the reason the oxygen pressure in Michael Fincke's spacesuit dropped while he was on a spacewalk. The astronaut returned to the ISS after the problem was noticed.
"Now we are trying to understand why oxygen leaked from the space suit," he said. "So far we have failed to create a similar situation in which pressure in the oxygen bottle could fall so rapidly."
He specified that the pressure began to fall dramatically when flight engineer Michael Fincke left the hatch, whereas Gennady Padalka had not even gone out into open space yet.
Mr. Solovyov explained that there were two oxygen tanks - the main and the reserve - in the Russian Orlan-M full-pressure spacesuits that the astronauts were wearing.
"We registered a considerable drop in pressure in the main tank," he said, "in the tank oxygen is under very high pressure, more than 450 atmospheres."
According to him, a very complex spacewalk was planned, as they had to travel for about an hour to reach and repair - something they had not trained for - a malfunctioning American gyroscope. Because of the level of difficulty, another attempt at the spacewalk was postponed for 4-5 days, Mr. Solovyov said.