Earlier this week, a hole was discovered in one of the Russian Soyuz space craft docked with the International Space Station, venting air into the icy expanse of space and prompting tensions between American and Russian space faring organizations as Russia chose to ignore NASA’s cautions when mounting a prompt repair effort. The small hole, roughly two millimeters in diameter, wasn’t big enough to place the crew’s lives at immediate risk, but seemed to shine a light on recent concerns about space debris sharing an orbit with the world’s space craft and satellites. Now, Russian officials are claiming the hole was likely man made, saying it appears to have been created from inside the spacecraft, and potentially, before it even went to orbit.
“We are considering all the theories. The one about a meteorite impact has been rejected because the spaceship’s hull was evidently impacted from inside. However it is too early to say definitely what happened. But, it seems to be done by a faltering hand… it is a technological error by a specialist. It was done by a human hand – there are traces of a drill sliding along the surface. We don’t reject any theories,” Dmitry Rogozin, CEO of Roscosmos, told Russian state media on Tuesday.
Rogozin said he couldn’t say whether or not the hole was drilled as a form of intentional sabotage or if it was the result of some sort of manufacturing error. In fact, he didn’t even rule out the possibility that it could have been done by one the crew of the International Space Station currently in orbit.
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst was the first to address the leak, sealing it temporarily with his finger as American and Russian crew mates fashioned a temporary fix using Kapton tape and epoxy. Soon, Roscosmos (Russia’s equivalent to NASA) issued an order to their personnel to begin fastening a more permanent repair solution to the hull of the spacecraft — a decision the mission commander, NASA Astronaut Drew Feustel, repeatedly asked to delay in favor of testing the repair solution on the ground before attempting it in orbit.
“I would really like to see a test of that, somehow, on the ground before we do a test up here and see if it’s going to work,” he said in one of multiple transmissions making similar requests. “We sort of feel like we’ve got one shot at it and if we screw it up, then the implications are one of these [Soyuz] vehicles is going home, or that vehicle is going home, sooner than later.”
The Russian cosmonauts, however, followed orders provided by the ground command element and executed the repairs, which seemed to hold despite a disconcerting bubble forming in the epoxy they used. Roscosmos ordered them to allow it to dry completely before attempting to address the bubble.