A whodunit has been unfolding in space over the past few months. It all started back in August, when astronauts aboard the International Space Station discovered a small hole in one of the walls, letting air escape into the vacuum of space. The hole itself was quickly patched, but questions about it remained. Specifically: How did the hole get there? And was it made deliberately?
A few people seem to think so. In particular, shortly after the hole was discovered, Dmitry Rogozin, the Director General of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, declared that the hole appeared to be created by a human and speculated that it could have been deliberate. And over the holiday weekend, intrigue grew as one of the Russian cosmonauts tasked with investigating the hole seemed to agree, according to the Associated Press.
Cosmonaut Sergei Prokopyev was one of two members of the ISS crew who went on a spacewalk a few weeks ago to investigate the hole from the outside. Over the course of several hours, Prokopyev and his colleague Oleg Kononenko cut into the outer shell of the Soyuz spacecraft where the hole was found, collected samples, and took photos of the entry—or exit—hole on the outside of the craft.
According to Prokopyev, whatever made the hole started on the inside of the spacecraft. Because there’s only the one hole, that rules out a micrometeorite or some natural cause. Instead, the only possible explanation seems to be that someone drilled the hole, either accidentally or on purpose.
This is a particular concern for Roscosmos because the hole was found on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft docked to the station. If this whole thing is the result of deliberate sabotage, it could damage the international image of Roscosmos and the Russian space program.
Last week, the Soyuz left the ISS and landed, giving Earth-bound scientists a chance to examine the damage up close. With more advanced instruments than those available to the ISS astronauts, we may be able to solve this mystery soon.
Source: Associated Press
Originally posted on Popular Mechanics