A small air leak has been discovered on the International Space Station (ISS), without posing any threat to the astronaut crew living and working on board Earth’s orbiting laboratory, NASA announced earlier today.
According to the space agency, the incident was “a minute pressure leak” uncovered yesterday afternoon by flight controllers back on Earth and seems to have occurred “on the Russian side of the orbital outpost.”
NASA is currently working together with the crew of Expedition 56 to contain the air leak, reports the Independent, noting that the astronauts searched the space station to locate the source of the problem and find out which module had sprung the leak.
“The leak has been identified and repair procedures are ongoing,” the European Space Agency (ESA) noted in a blog post. “The crew are healthy and safe with weeks of air left in the International Space Station reserves.”
The first signs that there was something wrong were detected on August 29 at about 7 p.m. EDT, when flight controllers “noticed a reduction of pressure” on board the ISS, stated ESA officials.
Since the loss of pressure “was very small” and didn’t put the astronaut crew in any immediate danger, the six members of Expedition 56 — NASA’s Andrew Feustel (space station commander), Ricky Arnold, and Serena Auñón-Chancellor, ESA’s Alexander Gerst, and Roscosmos’ Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev — were given the all clear to rest for the night, while flight controllers continued to monitor the data.
“When the crew was awakened at its normal hour this morning, flight controllers at Mission Control in Houston and at the Russian Mission Control Center outside Moscow began working procedures to try to determine the location of the leak,” NASA officials said in a statement.
— SPACE.com (@SPACEdotcom) August 30, 2018
Per the Independent, the source of the air leak has been traced down to a hole in the Soyuz MS-09 capsule that has been docked with the ISS’ Rassvet module for nearly three months. As the Inquisitr previously reported, the spacecraft arrived at the ISS on June 8 before the beginning of Expedition 56, bringing flight engineers Auñón-Chancellor, Gerst, and Prokopyev on board the space station.
One possible explanation for the air leak is that the Russian capsule may have been hit by a small piece of debris from space, which likely pierced its surface, allowing air to escape from inside the ISS, notes the British media outlet.
As of this writing, ground control engineers were still instructing the astronauts on how to seal the minuscule hole on the spacecraft.
“Program officials and flight controllers are continuing to monitor the situation as the crew works through its troubleshooting procedures,” said NASA.
The last time the space station was confronted with a minor air leak was in 2007, during Expedition 16, reports Space. At the time, the problem was detected on the ISS’ Harmony module, specifically the vestibule connecting it with NASA’s Destiny lab on board the space station.