Somebody call Inspector Clouseau and get him fitted up for a spacesuit. The recent puncture of the Soyuz space capsule docked at the International Space Station (ISS) in August has turned into a mystery which may wind up being a movie script. It was initially assumed that the tiny, two-millimeter hole which perforated the capsule had been caused by a tiny meteorite. It was a logical explanation, and since the rupture was quickly found and patched up it didn’t seem like much of a news item. But now the Russians, having launched a weeks-long investigation, are saying that the hole was deliberately drilled through the wall by one of the astronauts. (Daily Mail)
Russian investigators looking into the origin of a hole that caused an oxygen leak on the International Space Station say it was caused deliberately.
Speaking on Monday, Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russian space agency Roskosmos, said that a first commission had delivered its official report, which confirmed their theory.
‘It concluded that a manufacturing defect had been ruled out which is important to establish the truth,’ he said.
Rogozin said the commission’s main line of inquiry was that the hole had been drilled deliberately, a position that has been voiced in the past.
A number of possible explanations have been put forward ranging from the mundane to the simply bizarre. Some officials from Roskosmos suggested that the puncture may have been caused back on Earth before the capsule’s last launch. But if that were the case, you’d think somebody would have noticed their oxygen seeping away into space long before then. The meteorite theory, while the most plausible, was easily refuted by the shape of the hole, with the edges pushing outward rather than inward. It’s pretty much the same scenario as looking at a bullet hole in a car to determine whether the shot was fired from the inside or outside.
Some of the Russians involved in the investigation have suggested that one of the American astronauts drilled the hole purposely, either to hasten the departure of another crew member who was having medical issues or to delay the departure so their trip wouldn’t be cut short. But as soon as I hear theories like that, one immediate question comes to mind. Who in their right mind drills a hole in their spaceship unless it’s one of the worst suicide attempts on record?
The one other theory which may wind up being the favorite is that a member of the crew performing some sort of maintenance task accidentally drilled through the hull. Then, perhaps being too embarrassed to admit it, they put some sort of tape seal over the hole and didn’t tell anyone. But the reports we have thus far don’t make it clear whether there was tape over the hole when it was discovered. If there was, that should solve the matter.
Either way, tensions between NASA and the Russians are running high at the moment. They’re airing a host of complaints about the United States (and Elon Musk, who they say is trying to put them out of business) and we don’t need another dispute of this type. And until Musk’s Dragon crew capsule is ready to go into business, we still need the Russians to be cooperative.