CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Now he knows what it's like to be a goldfish in a fishbowl.
Two days after his helmet flooded during a spacewalk, astronaut Luca Parmitano relived the experience Thursday, describing how water kept trickling into his helmet until weightless globs covered his eyes, then his nose.
"For a couple of minutes there, maybe more than a couple of minutes, I experienced what it's like to be a goldfish in a fishbowl - from the point of view of the goldfish," Parmitano said in a TV interview from the International Space Station.
Parmitano used his memory to make his way back into the space station. His spacewalking partner, Christopher Cassidy, was a big help.
The 36-year-old Italian Air Force officer said he was "miserable but OK" as Tuesday's spacewalk came to an abrupt end.
"Imagine walking around with your eyes closed in a fishbowl. Really, that's what was going on. ... It's just a very uncomfortable feeling to be with your face underwater for all that time," he said.
Parmitano, a former test pilot, said he was lucky to get back inside so quickly. He figures there was 3 pounds of water floating inside his helmet; that's nearly a half-gallon. Parmitano's colleagues grabbed towels to mop his bald head once the one-hour spacewalk ended.
The astronauts and engineers in Houston are still trying to figure out what went wrong. The prime suspect is the suit's cooling system.
Parmitano said his long underwear, containing water tubes, appears to be fine.
Parmitano became Italy's first spacewalker last week. His spacesuit functioned perfectly the first time. Tuesday's excursion was a continuation of maintenance work.
NASA wants to be certain the problem is isolated to Parmitano's suit before sending any more astronauts outside.