Click for St. Louis, Missouri Forecast

// a href = ./ // St Louis News, Weather, Sports, The Big 550 AM, St Louis Traffic, Breaking News in St Louis

 
 
 
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — In one of the most harrowing spacewalks in decades, an astronaut had to rush back into the International Space Station on Tuesday after a mysterious water leak inside his helmet robbed him of the ability to speak or hear at times and could have caused him to choke or even drown.

Italian Luca Parmitano was reported to be fine after the dangerous episode, which might have been caused by an unprecedented leak in the cooling system of his suit. His spacewalking partner, American Christopher Cassidy, had to help him head inside after NASA quickly aborted the spacewalk.

No one — neither the astronauts in orbit nor flight controllers in Houston — breathed easier until Parmitano was back inside and his helmet was yanked off.

"He looks miserable. But OK," Cassidy assured everyone.

It was the first time in years that a spacewalk came to such an abrupt halt and the first time since NASA's Gemini program in the mid-1960s that a spacewalker became so incapacitated. Spacewalking always carries high risk; a puncture by a micrometeorite or sharp edge, if big enough, could result in instant death.

In a late afternoon news conference, NASA acknowledged the perilous situation that Parmitano had found himself in, and space station operations manager Kenneth Todd promised to "turn over every rock" to make sure it never happens again.

Spacewalking is dangerous already, noted flight director David Korth. Then on top of that, "go stick your head in a fishbowl and try to walk around. That's not anything that you take lightly," he said. "He did a great job of just keeping calm and cool" as the amount of water ominously increased.

"Grace under pressure," Korth said.

The two astronauts were outside barely an hour, performing routine cable work on their second spacewalk in eight days, when Parmitano reported the leak. It progressively worsened as the minutes ticked by, drenching the back of his head, then his eyes, nose and, finally, mouth by the time he was in the air lock, the pressure chamber. He could have choked or drowned on the floating globs of water, NASA officials said.

Between 1 and 1½ liters of water leaked into his helmet and suit, NASA estimated.

The source of the leak wasn't immediately known, but the main culprit appeared to be iodine-laced water that is piped through the long underwear worn under a spacesuit, for cooling. The system holds nearly 4 liters, or 1 gallon. Less likely was the 32-ounce (about 1 liter) drink bag that astronauts sip from during lengthy spacewalks; Parmitano reported the leaking water tasted odd.

At first, Parmitano, 36, a former test pilot and Italy's first spacewalker, thought it was sweat accumulating on the back of his bald head. But he was repeatedly assured it was not sweat. He agreed. "How much can I sweat?" he wondered aloud.

It was only his second spacewalk; his first was last Tuesday, six weeks after moving into the space station.

The water eventually got into Parmitano's eyes. That's when NASA ordered the two men back inside. Then the water drenched his nose and mouth, and he had trouble hearing on the radio lines.

Cassidy quickly cleaned up the work site, then joined Parmitano in the air lock.

The three Russians and one American who anxiously monitored the drama from inside hustled to remove Parmitano's helmet. They clustered around him, eight hands pulling off his helmet and using towels to mop his head. Balls of water floated away.

Parmitano blinked hard several times but otherwise looked fine as he gestured with his hands to show his crewmates where the water had crept around his head.

Cassidy told Mission Control: "To him, the water clearly did not taste like our normal drinking water." A smiling Parmitano then chimed in: "Just so you know, I'm alive and I can answer those questions, too."

He later tweeted: "Thanks for all the positive thoughts!"

Mission Control praised the crew for its fast effort and hooked them up with flight surgeons on the ground.

Parmitano used the same suit during last week's spacewalk without any problems. Before the gush of water made its way into his helmet, the astronaut reported a bad sensor for measuring carbon dioxide in his suit. NASA managers concluded the sensor likely failed due to all the water.

Spare spacesuits and equipment are on board for future NASA spacewalks.

The four remaining spacewalks planned for this year involve Russian astronauts wearing Russian suits, different than the U.S. models. They're preparing for the arrival later this year of a new Russian lab. The year's previous four spacewalks encountered no major snags. This was the 171st spacewalk in the 15-year history of the orbiting outpost.

There was no immediate word on when Tuesday's undone tasks might be attempted again. None of the chores was urgent, simply things that had piled up over the past couple years.

It was the fastest end to a spacewalk since 2004 when Russian and American spacewalkers were ordered back in by Mission Control outside Moscow because of spacesuit trouble. That spacewalk lasted a mere 14 minutes. Tuesday's spacewalk lasted one hour and 32 minutes.

During NASA's old shuttle program, spacewalks occasionally were stymied by stuck hatches and ripped gloves. By coincidence, Cassidy had to end a 2009 station-building spacewalk early because of a potentially dangerous buildup of carbon dioxide in his suit. This marked the sixth spacewalk for the 43-year-old former Navy SEAL, who's midway through a half-year station stint.

In 1966, two Gemini flights ended up with aborted spacewalks. Gemini 11 spacewalker Richard Gordon, was blinded by sweat. Gemini 9 spacewalker Gene Cernan breathed so heavily and sweated so much that fog collected inside his helmet visor and froze.

On the Russian side, the world's first spacewalker, Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, could barely get back into his spacecraft in 1965. He had to vent precious oxygen from his suit in order to fit through the hatch. Decades passed before his peril came to light.

"Today was certainly a very serious issue," said Karina Eversley, lead spacewalk officer. The goal, each time, is to get the crew back inside "before things get too serious," she added.

In that respect, Tuesday was a success, Todd noted. "Today the team did a great job."

___ Online: NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html
Read more...
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate stepped away from the brink of a meltdown on Tuesday, clearing the way for confirmation of one of President Barack Obama's nominees long blocked by Republicans, nearing a deal to fill several other vacancies and finessing a Democratic threat to overturn historic rules that protect minority-party rights.

"Nobody wants to come to Armageddon here," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat whose talks with Arizona Republican John McCain were critical in avoiding a collision that had threatened to plunge the Senate even deeper into partisan gridlock.

McCain, a veteran of uncounted legislation struggles, told reporters that forging the deal was "probably the hardest thing I've been involved in."

There was no immediate response from the White House, although Democratic senators said the terms of the compromise were acceptable to the administration.

Under the agreement, which both sides were reviewing at midday, several of seven stalled nominees would win confirmation quickly, including Labor Secretary-designate Tom Perez; Gina McCarthy, named to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, and Fred Hochberg to head of the Export-Import Bank.

Even before the agreement was ratified by the rank and file, Richard Cordray's long-stalled nomination to head the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau advanced toward approval on a test vote of 71-29, far more than the 60 required.

Two nominees to the National Labor Relations Board, Richard Griffin and Sharon Clark, were to be replaced by new selections, expected to be submitted by President Barack Obama later Tuesday and steered toward speedy consideration by Senate Republicans. Obama installed Griffin and Clark in their posts by recess appointments in 2011, bypassing the Senate but triggering a legal challenge. An appeals court recently said the two appointments were invalid, and the Supreme Court has agreed to review the case.

The seventh nomination at issue, Mark Pearce's selection to a new term as NLRB chairman, was relatively uncontroversial, and is likely to be approved along with the replacements for Griffin and Clark.

"I think we get what we want, they get what they want. Not a bad deal," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

There was more to it than that.

Scarcely 24 hours earlier, Reid had insisted that if Republicans didn't stop blocking confirmation of all seven, he would trigger a change in the Senate's procedures to strip them of their ability to delay. At the core of the dispute is the minority party's power to stall or block a yes-or-no vote on nearly anything, from legislation to judicial appointments to relatively routine nominations for administration positions.

While a simple majority vote is required to confirm presidential appointees, it takes 60 votes to end delaying tactics and proceed to a yes-or-no vote. Reid's threat to remove that right as it applied to nominations to administration positions was invariably described as the "nuclear option" for its likely impact on an institution with minority rights woven into its fabric.

The same term was used when Republicans made a similar threat on judicial nominations in 2005 — an earlier showdown that McCain helped defuse when it was his own party threatening to change the rules unilaterally.

As part of the deal over Obama's nominees, Republicans agreed to step aside and permit confirmation of several, some of whom they had long stalled. Cordray was first appointed in July 2011, but a vote was held up by GOP lawmakers who sought to use his confirmation as leverage to make changes in the legislation that created his agency.

McCarthy was named to her post in March, and Republicans dragged their feet, demanding she answer hundreds of questions about the EPA. At one point, they boycotted a committee meeting called to approve her appointment.

Perez, also nominated in March, is a senior Justice Department official, and was accused by Republicans of making decisions guided by left-wing ideology rather than the pursuit of justice.

As described by officials, the deal is strikingly similar to a proposal that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell floated in remarks on the Senate floor last week during an unusually personal exchange with Reid. At the time, the Kentucky Republican also said he had told Obama last January to drop his hopes of confirmation for Griffin and Clark and instead name two replacements. He relayed the same message again last month to Vice President Joe Biden, a former senator with whom he has a long relationship.

Tuesday's developments unfolded the morning after a closed-door meeting of nearly all 100 senators, many of them eager to avoid a rules change that could poison relations between the two parties at a time the Senate is struggling in an era of chronic gridlock. About three dozen lawmakers spoke in the course of a session that lasted more than three hours, and while few details have emerged, several participants said later it had been a productive meeting.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she had urged others to "look ahead and think about the time when we would have a Republican president with Republican Senate and there could be someone appointed who was completely unacceptable to my Democratic colleagues and was nominated to run their favorite program" She said she asked if they "really want to give away their right to filibuster that individual."

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said the sense of history hung over the meeting, which was held in the Old Senate Chamber, where lawmakers had debated slavery and other great national issues for much of the 19th century. "Senator McCain talked about Webster, Jefferson and Madison. We knew that we were on sacred political ground," he said.

McCain told reporters that with McConnell's knowledge, he had been involved in talks for several days in search of a compromise, speaking with Biden, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and numerous senators.

"At least 10 times it came together, and then fell apart because there's always some new wrinkle," he said.

___ Associated Press writers Alan Fram, Charles Babington, Donna Cassata, Josh Lederman and Sam Hananel contributed to this story
Read more...
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Tuesday conceded that an immigration overhaul cannot be achieved by his August deadline. With House Republicans searching for a way forward on the issue, the president said he was hopeful a bill could be finalized this fall — though even that goal may be overly optimistic.

The president, in a series of interviews with Spanish language television stations, also reiterated his insistence that any legislation include a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally. Many House GOP lawmakers oppose the citizenship proposal, hardening the differences between the parties on the president's top second-term legislative priority.

"It does not make sense to me, if we're going to make this once-in-a-generation effort to finally fix this system, to leave the status of 11 million people or so unresolved," he said during an interview with Telemundo's Denver affiliate.

The White House sees the president's outreach to Hispanics as a way to keep up enthusiasm for the overhaul among core supporters even as the legislative prospects in Washington grow increasingly uncertain.

Some Republicans view support for immigration reform as central to the party's national viability given the growing political power of Hispanics. But many House GOP lawmakers representing conservative — and largely white — districts see little incentive to back legislation.

The president said the lack of consensus among House Republicans will stretch the immigration debate past August, his original deadline for a long-elusive overhaul of the nation's fractured laws.

"That was originally my hope and my goal," Obama said. "But the House Republicans I think still have to process this issue and discuss it further, and hopefully, I think, still hear from constituents, from businesses to labor, to evangelical Christians who all are supporting immigration reform."

Supporters are working on strategy to get the House to sign off on an overhaul. On Tuesday, most members of the so-called Gang of Eight — the bipartisan group of senators that authored the Senate immigration bill — met in the Capitol with a large group of advocates from business, religious, agriculture and other organizations to urge everyone to work together to move the issue through the House.

The senators distributed a list of 121 House Republicans seen as persuadable in favor of the bill and discussed honing a message for Congress' monthlong August recess, when House members will meet with constituents and potentially encounter opposition to immigration legislation.

"When we go into the August break we want to be sure everybody's working hard and trying to make our case," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., after the meeting.

The landmark bill passed by the Senate last month would tighten border security, expand the highly skilled worker program and set up new guest worker arrangements for lower-skilled workers and farm laborers. It would also provide a pathway to citizenship for many of the 11 million immigrations illegally in the U.S., one that includes paying fees, learning English and taking other steps.

During his interview with Univision's Los Angeles affiliate, Obama said the citizenship pathway "needs to be part of the bill."

House Republicans have balked at the Senate proposal, with GOP leaders saying they prefer instead to tackle the issue in smaller increments. Many GOP representatives also oppose the prospect of allowing people who came to the U.S. illegally to become citizens.

House Republicans are considering other options, including proposals to give priority for legalization to the so-called Dreamers — those who were brought the U.S. illegally as children. Allowing only those individuals to obtain citizenship could shield Republicans from attacks by conservatives that they're giving a free pass to those who voluntarily broke the law.

"I think that group of people — some call Dreamers — is a group that deserves perhaps the highest priority attention," Rep. Bob Goodlatte, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said at an immigration-related conference in California Monday. "They know no other country."

Goodlatte and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, both Virginia Republicans, are working on a bill to address the status of those immigrants, although the timing is uncertain. And Goodlatte cautioned that any such measure should hinge on completion of enforcement measures to prevent parents from smuggling their children into the U.S. in the future.

The House is not expected to act on any legislation before the August recess, though the House Judiciary Committee could hold a hearing on the bill dealing with people brought to the U.S. when they were young.

Obama also spoke with the Telemundo station in Dallas and the Univision station in the New York/New Jersey area.

_ Associated Press writer Erica Werner contributed to this report.

_ Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC
Read more...

Latest News

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
Prev Next
Health registry could be created under bill on Nixon's desl

Health registry could be created under bill on Nixon's …

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - County officials could compile lists of residents with health problems under a Missouri bill intended to identify people in need of help during disast...

Texas man charged for hitting cyclist while driving dru…

ST. CHARLES, MO (AP) – A Texas man faces second-degree assault charges after allegedly striking a bicyclist while driving drunk.   The St. Louis Post-Dispatch repor...

Rauner skips GOP event over pastor's comments

Rauner skips GOP event over pastor's comments

MOLINE, Ill. (AP) - GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner (ROW'-nur) isn't attending a Republican dinner in Moline because he says he disagrees with past statements from a pa...

Mizzou journalism school trying to roll out journalism drones again

Mizzou journalism school trying to roll out journalism …

COLUMBIA, MO (AP) – The University of Missouri journalism school has modified its classroom use of aerial drones as a legal challenge to the FAA ban on commercial use of the fly...

Lawmakers approve changes to Missouri criminal code

Lawmakers approve changes to Missouri criminal code

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri lawmakers gave final approval to the first comprehensive rewrite of the state's criminal laws in decades.   The House and Senate...

Craig Michael Wood pleads not guilty

Craig Michael Wood pleads not guilty

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - A southwest Missouri youth football coach accused of kidnapping, raping and killing a 10-year-old girl has pleaded not guilty   Forty-six-ye...

© 2013 KTRS All Rights Reserved