Back in August, a crew from the International Space Station (ISS) was surprised to learn that the leak was responsible for a slight loss of air pressure at the station.
After investigating, they learned that the cause was a small hole in the Soyuz Russian spacecraft that had docked with the ISS. While the hole was immediately closed, the cause has remained a mystery ever since.
To determine the possible cause, and examine the external holes on the spacecraft, the 57 Expedition crew did an "unprecedented spacecraft" on December 11.
After collecting samples from outside the plane, flight engineer Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev concluded that the hole had been drilled from the capsule, a finding that raises more questions.
During a spacecraft trip, Kononenko and Prokopyev opened thermal insulation and meteorite shields on the spacecraft to examine the holes closer. They also took a digital image of the hole and obtained a sample which has since been returned to Earth with capsules (on December 11) for further analysis.
Initially associated with micrometeorites, the hole was quickly determined as a result of drilling. The hole does not pose a threat to the station or its crew, because it is very small and causes a one-minute drop in air pressure. However, after the mission controller and crew identified the source, they wasted no time in clogging holes with epoxy and gauze.
The results of the crew analysis were shared during the press conference shortly after Prokopyev and the crew of Serena Aunon-Chancellor (NASA) and Alexander Gerst (European Space Agency) returned to Earth. The hole did not pose a threat as long as they returned because parts of the shelter were dumped before re-entering the Earth's atmosphere.
As Prokopyev points out, the cavity starts from the inside of the capsule (meaning it is drilled from inside) and that Russian law enforcement agencies are investigating what caused it. Prokopyev also dismissed rumors that the hole was deliberately drilled, which emerged as a result of a statement he made in September.
At that time, Rogozin had said that they were not prepared to rule out the fact that the hole was deliberately drilled, either when it was made or while in orbit. This gave rise to rumors that a drill hole might be part of an effort to sabotage. Rumors spread with statements made by former cosmonauts and Russian politician Maxim Suraev.
On September 4, during a discussion of leaks in the State Duma, Suraev spoke frankly about the possibility that mental instability could play a role. "We are all living people, everyone might want to go home, but this method is not feasible at all," he said. "If the cosmonaut does it, and this can't be ruled out, then it's really bad."
On September 6, he once again explored this possibility, adding:
"But if it happens in space, and it will be determined by commission, then I can once again confirm that only fools, who fly in space, mentally unstable people can start drilling holes, because there is vacuum ., because you are not only yourself, you are dangerous, but the lives of five people besides yourself. You are crazy, which means you get it. But I don't blame anyone. "
Since then Rogozin has carried out these statements again and claims that the news media has distorted his words. At that time, he was clear that the investigation would determine the real cause, even if sabotage was a small possibility. During the press conference, Prokopyev also rejected the idea that the hole could have been deliberately drilled by an astronaut. "You shouldn't think too much about our crew," he said.
These latest statements did little to prevent speculation about what caused the drill hole. However, both NASA and Russian authorities continue to insist that the cause of the hole is still unknown and will be fully investigated. As Prokopyev summarized during the conference, "it is up to the organ of investigation to assess when the hole was made."
He was also sure to show that this incident showed the level of readiness of the ISS crew. The way astronauts quickly identify and correct holes shows that "the crew is ready for every development," he said. Meanwhile, operations on the ISS continued, with the 58th Expedition commencing operations on December 20th.
The crew was ordered by Oleg Kononenko (who helped close the hole and participate in the spacecraft) and included NASA astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques as flight engineers.
This article was originally published by Universe Today. Read the original article.