A hole found in a spacecraft module docked on the International Space Station is now believed to have been drilled.
The hole was discovered in the Russian section of the space station, The Guardian reported, saying the hole confused the Russian space agency at first. Initial perceptions were that it might have been from a small asteroid.
The latest theory suggests that someone who is present on the space station may have drilled the hole, while another theory is that it was drilled before the module was launched towards the ISS.
The hole was discovered on Aug. 29 when mission control in Moscow and Houston detected a non-life threatening drop in pressure. Russian officials said the spacecraft could have run out of air within 18 days if left undetected.
Maxim Surayev, a politician and retired cosmonaut, told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency that it may have been done by a psychologically disturbed astronaut.
“If a cosmonaut pulled this strange stunt—and that can’t be ruled out—it’s really bad,” he said, Phys.org reported. “We’re all human, and anyone might want to go home, but this method is really low.”
The crew found the hole and patched it with a rubber plug made from garbage bag seals, duct tape, medical gauze, and vacuum-proof sealant, The Telegraph reported.
“Yesterday showed again how valuable our emergency training is. We could locate and stop a small leak in our Soyuz, thanks to great cooperation between the crew and control centres on several continents,” wrote German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst from space, via Twitter.
Yesterday showed again how valuable our emergency training is. We could locate and stop a small leak in our Soyuz, thanks to great cooperation between the crew and control centres on several continents. pic.twitter.com/Jo0MnIIprL
— Alexander Gerst (@Astro_Alex) August 31, 2018
The hole was drilled in a Russian Soyuz module, on a piece that gets discarded in space, not a part used to transport people back to Earth, The Guardian reported. It nonetheless has an effect on astronauts aboard while it is docked at the ISS.
According to NASA, Soyuz spacecraft are used to transport people and supplies to and from the space station. Only Soyuz spacecraft are currently able to carry people to the ISS right now.
At least one Soyuz stays attached to the space station at any one time. It acts as an emergency pod if people needed to leave the space station and return to Earth. The Soyuz launches and lands in Kazakhstan, according to NASA.
One space industry source thinks the hole could have been created there, during testing, Phys.org reported.
“Someone messed up and then got scared and sealed up the hole,” the source told TASS, speculating that the sealant “dried up and fell off” when the module reached the ISS.
When astronauts and cosmonauts leave Earth to go to the ISS, the travel could be six hours or two days. To travel back to Earth, only three hours are needed. A Soyuz module comes back to Earth with no wings or wheels. It uses only parachutes and rockets to slow the impact on the grassy plains of Kazakhstan. Each Soyuz module can only be used once. Some parts burn up in Earth’s atmosphere upon the module’s return from space, according to NASA and the ESA.
The head of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, said that a state commission expects to find out who drilled the hole and name him or her publicly.
“There were several attempts at drilling,” Rogozin said in televised comments, according to The Guardian, adding that the drill seems to have been held by a “wavering hand.”