Back in August, the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) was surprised to learn that the leak caused a slight loss of air pressure at the station. After investigation, they learned that the reason was a small hole in the Russian spacecraft "Soyuz", which docked with the ISS. Although the hole was quickly closed, the reason for its appearance is still a mystery.
To determine the possible cause and inspect the outer hole in the spacecraft, Expedition 57 team conducted an "unprecedented spacewalk" on December 11. After taking samples from the outside of the ship, flight engineers Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopiev came to the conclusion that a hole had been drilled from the capsule, and this discovery raises even more questions.
During the spacewalk, Kononenko and Prokopiev printed out the thermal insulation and meteoric shield on the spacecraft to inspect the hole more closely. They also made digital images of the hole and obtained samples that have since been returned to Earth with a capsule (December 11) for further analysis.
Originally classified as a micrometeorite, the hole was quickly identified as the result of drilling. The hole did not pose a threat to the station or its crew, since it was very small and caused a slight drop in air pressure. However, after the mission dispatchers and crew identified the source, they did not lose time to close the hole with epoxy and gauze.
The crew analysis results were presented at a press conference shortly after Prokopiev and his members, Serena Aunon Chancellor (NASA) and Alexander Gerst (European Space Agency) returned to Earth. This hole did not pose a threat during their return, because the area in which it appeared was eliminated before re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
As Prokopiev pointed out, the cavity began from the inside of the capsule (meaning that it was drilled from the inside), and Russian law enforcement agencies are investigating what caused it. Prokopiev also refuted rumors that the well was drilled deliberately, which was the result of his statement in September.
At that time, Rogozin said that they were not ready to rule out the fact that the hole was specially drilled when it was made or was in orbit. This gave rise to rumors that the borehole may have been part of a sabotage attempt. Rumors were further inflamed by the statements of the former cosmonaut and Russian politician Maxim Suraev.
On September 4, during a discussion about a leak in the State Duma, Surayev openly said that mental instability could play a role. “We are all living people, everyone may want to go home, but this method is completely unworthy,” he said. "If an astronaut did this, and this cannot be ruled out, then this is absolutely bad."
On September 6, he once again investigated this possibility, adding:
"But if it happened in space and will be established by the commission, then I can once again confirm that only a fool flying in space, a mentally unstable person, can begin to drill a hole, because there is a vacuum because you are not only yourself, you expose danger, but also the lives of five people besides yourself. You are mad, which means you get it. But I don't blame anyone.
Since then, Rogozin withdrew from these statements and said that the media had distorted his words. At that time it was clear to him that the investigation would determine the true cause, even if the sabotage was unlikely. During the press conference, Prokopyev also rejected the idea that the hole could have been specially drilled by an astronaut. “You shouldn't think so badly about our team,” he said.
These recent statements did not do much to restrain the assumption that caused the drilling of the well. However, both NASA and the Russian authorities remain adamant that the cause of the hole remains unknown and will be fully investigated. As Prokopiev summed up during the conference, “the investigating authorities should judge when this hole was made”.
He also noted with confidence that this incident demonstrated the level of readiness of the ISS crew. The way in which the astronauts quickly identified and repaired the hole demonstrated that “the team was ready for any event,” he said. Meanwhile, operations aboard the ISS continue, Expedition 58 begins work on December 20.
The crew of the team Oleg Kononenko (who helped seal the hole and participated in the spacewalk) and includes NASA astronauts Ann McClain and David St. Jacques as a flight engineer
Further reading: AP, NASA