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Sabotage Can’t Be Ruled Out As Cause Of International Space Station Air Leak

NASA

Last week, the world was captivated by the story of an air leak on the International Space Station (ISS).

While the hole that caused the leak was just two millimeters across, it caused a noticeable drop in cabin air pressure.

Astronauts were able to quickly plug the hole with rags and other small objects, before sealing it with tape and epoxy last Thursday.

NASA
The international Space Station.NASA

Originally, Russia's Roscosmos space agency said that the leak - which was found in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft used to carry crewmembers to the ISS - was caused by an impact with a small meteorite.

Now, the agency's head, Dimitry Rogozin, says that theory has been completely ruled out.

Instead, Roscosmos believes that a hole was drilled by hand and from inside the space station.

ISS
The damaged Soyuz spacecraft.NASA

In a televised interview, Rogozin said the hole had been drilled in "several attempts" by a "wavering" or shaking hand. He also said there was evidence that the drill slid along the surface.

"What is this: a production defect or some premeditated actions?" Rogozin asked. He later told reporters that even "deliberate interference in space" could not be ruled out.

Maxium Suraev, a Russian federal politician and a former cosmonaut, also wouldn’t dismiss the idea that a “mentally unstable member of the ISS crew” might have drilled the hole.

NASA
The hole in the Soyuz.NASA

“We’re all human and anyone might want to go home, but this method is really low,” he told The Guardian.

“I wish to God that this is a production defect, although that’s very sad too – there’s been nothing like this in the history of Soyuz ships.”

A report by Russian state media this week says Rocket and Space Corporation Energiya, who made the Soyuz spacecraft, will be checking all of its cargo spacecrafts for similar defects.

Baikonur
A Soyuz rocket is seen at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazahkstan.Ninara - Wikimedia

Russia's TASS news agency reported a less dramatic theory for the leak: a worker at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazahkstan damaged the spacecraft, then covered the hole with a sealant.

When the epoxy dried off, it may have fell away and revealed the hole, causing a drop in pressure.

The damaged Soyuz's last flight was in June, when it brought a trio of astronauts including the American Serena Auñón-Chancellor to the ISS.

It was scheduled to return crewmembers to earth in December, but Roscosmos says it will no longer be used.

Expedition 56
Expedition 56 crew members, from left to right: Oleg Artemyev, Drew Feustel, Ricky Arnold, Sergey Prokopyev, Alexander Gerst, and Serena Auñón-Chancellor.Robert Markowitz / NASA

There are currently six crewmembers on board the ISS for the Expedition 56 mission:

  • Alexander Gerst from Germany, representing the European Space Agency
  • Drew Feustel, Ricky Arnold, and Serena Auñón-Chancellor of the United States, representing NASA
  • Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev, of Russia's Roscosmos

Another Soyuz cargo capsule is set to launch on October 11.

[H/T: AFP, Smithsonian, RIA]

Which theory about the leak do you believe?

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