Hundreds of miles away from the surface of the Earth, practically stranded in the middle of nowhere, astronauts are meant to be as scared as Courage the Cowardly Dog, but they spend time on the International Space Station for months in a row, and their fears certainly do not involve ghosts. The list of disasters that can potentially happen onboard is rather long, and many of them have already happened.
A place where even a sandwich is enough to get everyone killed, many have died and so many others have been rescued right at the edge of death. One of these was Luca Parmitano, who was out on a spacewalk from the ISS back in 2013. A leak in the cooling system of his spacesuit began to fill his helmet in the weightlessness of the orbit. Without gravity, the water was sticking to any surface it touched that meant blinding, deafening, and suffocating Luca, while he drowned inside his helmet.
Luca had to get back inside the station with high hopes of getting rescued by his crew members. Another crew member, Karen Nyberg received the call for help and floated back to the station to help. Criss Cassidy, who was working on another task outside the station, joined the two in the chamber. As soon as they got in, Nyberg began to pressurize the airlock, but that took so long that Parmitano fell completely silent in the meanwhile. Looking at the pressure valve, she decided to crank it up to the highest level to remove the helmet as quickly as possible. Doing which could have burst both Luca and Cassidy’s eardrums.
The pressure rose slowly, Cassidy squeezed Parmitano’s hand and received an OK signal. By then, Luca had begun to breathe and talk, but no sound came out, as the communication link had been damaged by the water. When the pressure finally equalized, Nyberg rushed to remove astronaut’s helmet to wipe off the water from his face.
Even the strongest and the best-trained people can crash under pressure like this, but Nyberg maintained her cool. She said that she was worried, but her training worked and she followed the standard procedure instead of panicking into an extreme measure.
Nyberg had gone through training for airlock operations, spending many hours in the mock-up ISS at Johnson Space Center. A lot of this training involved the daily tasks of a routine day; exercising, performing experiments, reporting back to the ground, and the fixing the space toilet that is known for frequent break downs.
Dying is not the only fear up in the space. The boredom and loneliness up there are enough to have a deep psychological impact on your mind, and Nyberg is one of the many astronauts who sacrificed their family life to spend months at a time in space, getting to see only a video footage of the family once in a while.