The hole in the International Space Station was drilled from the inside, a Russian cosmonaut says, a revelation that is almost certainly going to complicate the already-fraught relationship between the USA and Russia, the Associated Press is reporting.
Back on August 30, the crew aboard the spacecraft noticed a slight loss of air pressure and set about to finding the problem. As it would later be revealed, there was a small hole on the Soyuz spacecraft, which the crew quickly patched up with epoxy and gauze. The Soyuz is the Russian-built spacecraft that transports crew and supplies between Earth and the ISS.
In fact, so minor was the hole, and so satisfactory the repair, that when the Soyuz capsule left for Earth to return cosmonaut Sergei Prokopyev and two other crew members to Earth last week, it caused no problems. That’s in part because the part of the Soyuz capsule that had been damaged was jettisoned before re-entry when the spacecraft travels through the atmosphere and risks being burned up by friction if everything doesn’t go perfectly.
However, before returning home, Prokopyev and ISS crew mate Oleg Kononenko had done a space walk where they inspected the damage to the Soyuz capsule. What the cosmonaut says he found there is pretty disturbing: His analysis of the damage to the craft led him to conclude that the hole was drilled from inside the capsule.
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However, Prokopyev, in a news conference, was quick to point out two important facts. First, he said, the fact that the ISS crew so quickly and satisfactorily repaired the hole that it demonstrates that the crew were “ready for any developments.” He also cautioned against drawing any conclusions about possible sabotage aboard the spacecraft, saying “it’s up to the investigative organs to judge when that hole was made.”
Meanwhile, Russian space agency Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin had said, months ago, that it’s quite possible the hole had been made when the Soyuz space craft was on the ground, possibly during the manufacturing process. He also suggested that a crew member could have drilled it, a statement that didn’t go over well with NASA. He has since backed off from such talk and has said that the media had tried to twist his words.
Prokopyev, for his part, rejects any notion that an astronaut, be he Russian, American, Japanese, European, or any other nationality that’s been aboard the craft, could have had anything to do with the hole.
“You shouldn’t think so badly of our crew.”