Suspicious hole on the International Space Station was caused by a ‘botched repair job’, claims commander
- Alexander Gerst confirmed the leak was made deliberately from the inside
- He believes it is from a faulty repair job done by mechanics on Earth
- In an interview he revealed it could have had ‘severe’ repercussions for the crew
The commander of the International Space Station has revealed the hole drilled from the inside of the orbiting laboratory was likely caused by a botched repair job.
It’s been more than four months since crew first discovered the hole in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, but just how it got there still remains a mystery.
Alexander Gerst confirmed the leak was made deliberately and had the potential for ‘severe’ repercussions in an interview with the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
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The commander of the International Space Station has revealed the hole drilled from the inside of the orbiting laboratory was likely caused by a botched repair job. Space officials said the station remained safe to operate. There appear to be drill marks around the hole on the inside (pictured)
Gerst, the German-born commander of the mission, refuted allegations that the hole was caused by US astronauts.
He instead says that it was likely caused by a faulty repair job which was inadequately performed by mechanics on the ground.
Gerst spoke about the risks the crew faced and said: ‘As an astronaut you think “Well, what would have happened if it broke loose a little bit earlier, when we were travelling to the space station, when you only have a very small volume of air in that spacecraft?”,’ he said.
‘Even though the hole was small in that case it would have been more more severe for us.’
Sergey Prokopyev and two other astronauts returned to work in December following a 197-day space station mission.
The hole in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft attached to the station was spotted on August 30.
Just days prior to their return to Earth, the cosmonauts endured a gruelling spacewalk that lasted almost eight hours to investigate the hole, using knives and shears to carve into the side of the ISS.
The crew discovered a leak that was creating a slight loss of pressure and plugged the hole with epoxy and gauze.
Nasa claimed the astronauts on-board were never in danger but images and further investigation revealed it was made from the inside.
Alexander Gerst confirmed the leak was made deliberately and had the potential for ‘severe’ repercussions in an interview with the BBC Radio 4 Today programme
WHAT COULD HAVE CAUSED A HOLE IN THE ISS?
Theory one – it was caused by a small meteorite
A tiny hole appeared in a Russian space capsule locked to the ISS on 30th August.
The ‘micro fracture’ believed to be around 2mm wide in the $150 billion (£115 billion) space station was discovered after astronauts noticed a drop in pressure.
European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst reportedly put his finger over the hole before crew patched it with tape.
The hole was confirmed repaired by Friday (31 August) after cabin pressure returned to normal.
It was initially believed to have been caused by a small meteorite and astronauts used tape to seal the leak after it caused a minor loss of pressure.
Theory two – it was made deliberately while in orbit
However, as the investigation went on it began to look like the hole was made from someone inside as opposed to outside, either back on Earth or in space, the Russian space agency claimed.
Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said in September that the hole could have been drilled during manufacturing or while in orbit with a ‘wavering hand’.
He didn’t say if he suspected any of the US crew, but the statement has caused some bewilderment.
Sources suggest the question of how to fix the hole may have strained relations between Moscow and Houston.
Rogozin has since reneged on his statement blaming the media for twisting his words and said that he ‘never pointed the finger at U.S. astronauts’.
Theory three – it was caused by a worker at Energia
A leading theory from an unnamed source at Energia said the hole was made on the ground – potentially caused by ‘deliberate interference’ – with suggestions the person responsible may have already been identified.
Another anonymous source said the hole was drilled by a worker who hid their mistake with a seal instead of reporting it.
An unnamed source at Energia told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti that ‘[t]he hole was made on the ground’.
According to the source, ‘[t]he person responsible for the act of negligence has been identified’.
Another anonymous source said the hole was not made intentionally but by a worker who hid their mistake with a seal instead of reporting it.
The patchwork repair lasted the trip up to the ISS but after three weeks in orbit gradually peeled away.
Claims were made that the hole was likely as a result of sabotage or repair error.
The hole didn’t pose a danger to Prokopyev and crewmates Serena Aunon-Chancellor of NASA and Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency during their return because the section of the capsule it appeared on was jettisoned before the fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.
Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said in September the hole could have been drilled when the capsule was manufactured or in orbit.
Rogozin stopped short of blaming crew members, but the statement has caused some friction between Roscosmos and NASA.
Rogozin has since back-pedaled from the statement, blaming the news media for twisting his words.
Prokopyev scoffed at the idea the hole could have been drilled by an astronaut, saying, ‘You shouldn’t think so badly of our crew.’