You might have thought that story about a leak on the International Space Station (ISS) had reached its conclusion after a cause was seemingly found – but you’d be wrong.
In the latest surprising development, Russian newspaper Kommersant claimed that US astronauts aboard the station were now suspects. The accusation comes from an unknown source at the Russian space agency Roscosmos, who said they “cannot exclude an unsanctioned access by the Americans," adding that investigators were now pursuing the idea that the Americans were involved.
“The working theory goes something like this: one of the American crew members… got ill sometime in August,” said ArsTechnica. “The motive for the sabotage seems to be that NASA did not want to pay the entire cost of a new Soyuz [to return the crewmember to Earth], probably about $85 million.”
The problems all began on the night of August 29, when a very slow leak was found on the ISS. This was eventually traced back to a small hole in the orbital module of a docked Soyuz spacecraft, which was patched up and repaired pretty quickly.
Initially, it was thought this hole was caused by a micrometeoroid hitting the station. But an image of the hole showed clearly there were drill marks around it, leading to the accusation of either accidental damage or sabotage.
"We are considering all the theories,” Dmitry Rogozin, CEO of Rocosmos, said earlier this month. “The one about a meteorite impact has been rejected because the spaceship’s hull was evidently impacted from inside. However, it is too early to say definitely what happened. But, it seems to be done by a faltering hand.”
Later developments suggested this almost certainly occurred on the ground, perhaps the result of a mistake by a worker. Nonetheless, Rogozin had some pretty stark works for whoever caused it, saying they would “find out, without fail” who was responsible.
Writing on Facebook, Rogozin has now sought to quell these latest claims about US Astronauts being involved. He said the rumors were “designed to subvert the friendly relations among the crew members of the space station.”
And NASA astronaut Drew Feustal, one of the three US astronauts on the station, also condemned the accusations in a space-to-ground interview with ABC News last night. “I can unequivocally say that the crew had nothing to do with this,” he said, reported Florida Today.
It’s a pretty messy affair regarding what appears to have been a simple mistake, and one that threatens to cause unwanted tensions between Russia and the US. A Russian investigation into the leak is ongoing, and hopefully when that’s concluded we’ll be able to put this whole episode to bed.