The head of the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has said that a hole found in the International Space Station (ISS) was not an accident – and may have been drilled deliberately.
Speaking on TV on Monday, October 1, Dimitry Rogozin said Russian investigators had been looking into what caused the now infamous hole on the ISS, reported AFP. It resulted in a bit of alarm, but was plugged by astronauts before any serious damage was done.
"It [the investigation] concluded that a manufacturing defect had been ruled out, which is important to establish the truth," he was quoted as saying, noting the main line of inquiry was that the hole had been made deliberately.
"Where it was made will be established by a second commission, which is at work now."
The small hole in the ISS was located on August 29, causing a very slow leak. It was located in the orbital section of one of Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft. Astronauts eventually plugged it with sealant, halting the leak.
Initially, it was thought that the hole was caused by a micrometeoroid hitting the station. This was later rejected, as drill marks suggested the hole had been made inside the spacecraft.
This led to a hugely controversial claim that US astronauts could have somehow been involved (although Russia distanced themselves from the claim), perhaps to get a sick astronaut back to Earth to avoid paying for another Soyuz spacecraft. This was strongly condemned by NASA and US astronauts.
“I think it’s absolutely a shame and somewhat embarrassing that anybody is wasting any time talking about something that the crew was involved in,” Expedition 56 commander Drew Feustal told ABC News last month.
Russia has been busy carrying out its own investigation, and there were suggestions last month that they had identified the person responsible. It wasn’t clear if this had been an accident during the construction of the spacecraft though, with a botched repair job, or something more sinister.
These latest comments from Rogozin are there going to stoke the fire that much more. The placement of the hole in the orbital section wouldn’t have caused a problem to astronauts – the orbital section is jettisoned before the spacecraft returns to Earth.
But was there really a saboteur in the Russian manufacturing process who drilled a hole into the spacecraft on purpose? That seems pretty unbelievable, but that’s what Russia is seriously considering at the moment.