Now that officials have rejected a meteorite collision as the cause of a tiny leak in a spacecraft docked at the International Space Station, the hunt is on for who made the hole and why.
Last week, officials noticed that pressure in the space station had dipped, and they traced the pressure loss to a leak in a Russian Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft, which has been docked at the space station since June, CBS News reported.
“We don’t reject any theories,” said Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, according to the state news agency TASS.
Russian officials are seeking to determine “whether it was an accidental defect or a deliberate spoilage and where it was done … we will find out, without fail,” he said.
Sabotage is not ruled out, Rogozin said, but human error remains a possible cause.
“There were several attempts at drilling,” he said Monday on Russian television, AFP reported.
ISS Leak summary:
First thought was MMOD strike.
Then NASA released pics. Lots of people: "Hmmm, doesn't look like MMOD". NASA deleted the photos.
Top Russian news site RIA NOVOSTI reported – via sources but apparently confirmed by Mr. Rogozin – it was a drill hole. pic.twitter.com/520kHK0TMc
— Chris B – NSF (@NASASpaceflight) September 3, 2018
“What is this: a production defect or some premeditated actions?” Rogozin asked. “We are checking the Earth version. But there is another version that we do not rule out: deliberate interference in space.”
Russian expert Alexander Zheleznyakov rejected the theory that the hole was made in space.
“Why should any of the crew try to do that? I would not like to use the word nonsense, but all this does not fit in well with logic,” Zheleznyakov said, according to TASS.
“Most probably all had happened at the manufacturer’s plant,” he said. “A hole that has been patched up with glue is hard to detect. … Most probably, a worker drilled a wrong hole and then patched it up and then either avoided telling anyone or those he had informed preferred to keep quiet, too.”
However, a Russian legislator and former cosmonaut said it could be possible.
“We’re all human and anyone might want to go home, but this method is really low,” Maxim Surayev told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.
“If a cosmonaut pulled this strange stunt — and that can’t be ruled out — it’s really bad,” Surayev said.
“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.”
John Logsdon, a space policy expert at George Washington University, told NPR there is no good outcome, even if it is a production flaw.
There is “a kind of generalized concern about the decline of quality control in Russian space industry in recent years,” Logsdon said, adding that if the hole was an accident “and then covered up and nobody inspected and found it … that’s troubling.”
Leroy Chiao, former commander of the space station, told NPR that drilling through half-inch thick material with a hand drill was not that simple.
“It would take a little while to drill all the way through the hole,” he said.
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