The soap opera surrounding the International Space Station’s mysterious hole and air leak continues.
NASA wants answers, but it seems their Russian counterparts are unwilling to provide them, despite allegedly knowing the cause of the issue as long ago as last year.
August 2018 saw astronauts rush to fix a hole which had appeared in the outer wall of the Soyuz capsule on the orbiting laboratory. Its origins were, and still are, a mystery — despite rife speculation.
Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, conducted an investigation into the hole and compiled a dossier on the incident, but reports claim it will not disclose its findings.
This includes, it seems, its international collaborators on the ISS, including NASA.
Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator and top boss, says he wants to maintain a good working relationship, but insists he has been kept in the dark by the Russians.
August 2018 saw astronauts rush to fix a hole (pictured) which had appeared in the outer wall of the Soyuz capsule on the orbiting laboratory. Its origins were, and still are, a mystery despite rife speculation.
The leak, a circular hole in the hull of the Russian Soyuz capsule as it joined the ISS, was the subject of headlines and speculation for months.
The exact cause of the breach was thought to be a botched repair job by an engineer who drilled through the side of the spacecraft.
However, some made allegations of subterfuge and deliberate sabotage.
A report from the Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti claimed that Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, revealed the agency had discovered the origin of the hole last year.
He is also reported as saying the findings would not be released.
‘They have not told me anything,’ Jim Bridenstine said during a Houston energy conference question session last week, according to the Houston Chronicle.
‘I don’t want to let one item set [the relationship] back, but it is clearly not acceptable that there are holes in the International Space Station,’ he said.
The hole in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft attached to the station was spotted on August 30, three months after it first docked.
A decrease in air pressure was detected and astronauts rushed to find the cause.
Just days prior to their return to Earth, the cosmonauts endured a gruelling spacewalk that lasted almost eight hours to investigate the hole, using knives and shears to carve into the side of the ISS.
Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator and top boss, (pictured, right, with actor brad Pitt who visited NASA this week) says he wants to maintain a good working relationship, but insists he has been kept in the dark by the Russians
The crew discovered a 2-millimetre (0.08 inches) hole which caused the leak and plugged it with epoxy and gauze.
NASA claimed the astronauts on board were never in danger but images and further investigation revealed it was made from the inside.
Sergey Prokopyev and two other astronauts, Serena Aunon-Chancellor of NASA and Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, were on board when it as detected.
Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said in September 2018 that the hole could have been drilled when the capsule was manufactured or in orbit.
At the time however, he stopped short of blaming crew members, but the statement has caused some friction between Roscosmos and NASA.
Rogozin has since back-pedalled from the statement, blaming the news media for twisting his words.
Mr Prokopyev scoffed at the idea the hole could have been drilled by an astronaut, saying, ‘You shouldn’t think so badly of our crew.’
WHAT COULD HAVE CAUSED A HOLE IN THE ISS?
Theory one – it was caused by a small meteorite
A tiny hole appeared in a Russian space capsule locked to the ISS on 30th August.
The ‘micro fracture’ believed to be around 2mm wide in the $150 billion (£115 billion) space station was discovered after astronauts noticed a drop in pressure.
European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst reportedly put his finger over the hole before crew patched it with tape.
The hole was confirmed repaired by Friday (31 August) after cabin pressure returned to normal.
It was initially believed to have been caused by a small meteorite and astronauts used tape to seal the leak after it caused a minor loss of pressure.
Theory two – it was made deliberately while in orbit
However, as the investigation went on it began to look like the hole was made from someone inside as opposed to outside, either back on Earth or in space, the Russian space agency claimed.
Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said in September that the hole could have been drilled during manufacturing or while in orbit with a ‘wavering hand’.
He didn’t say if he suspected any of the US crew, but the statement has caused some bewilderment.
Sources suggest the question of how to fix the hole may have strained relations between Moscow and Houston.
Rogozin has since reneged on his statement blaming the media for twisting his words and said that he ‘never pointed the finger at U.S. astronauts’.
Theory three – it was caused by a worker at Energia
A leading theory from an unnamed source at Energia said the hole was made on the ground – potentially caused by ‘deliberate interference’ – with suggestions the person responsible may have already been identified.
Another anonymous source said the hole was drilled by a worker who hid their mistake with a seal instead of reporting it.
An unnamed source at Energia told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti that ‘[t]he hole was made on the ground’.
According to the source, ‘[t]he person responsible for the act of negligence has been identified’.
Another anonymous source said the hole was not made intentionally but by a worker who hid their mistake with a seal instead of reporting it.
The patchwork repair lasted the trip up to the ISS but after three weeks in orbit gradually peeled away.