Astronauts were forced to use knives and scissors to dig a gaping hole in the side of the International Space Station to find clues to a mysteriously drilled hole that leaked valuable cabin pressure four months ago.
Two Russian cosmonauts – Sergei Prokopyev and Oleg Kononenko – were forced to use an arsenal of tools to expose the source of the leak in a grueling spacewalk of seven hours and 45 minutes.
Dramatic images and images show insulation and debris from the hull of the spacecraft that floats in space while hacking the side of the Soyuz capsule with daggers and garden-scissor-like devices.
Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, said the goal was to discover whether the small but dangerous & # 39; hole was deliberately caused by an act of sabotage & # 39; or that it was made in space.
The two millimeter cavity on the spaceship Soyuz moored at the ISS caused an air leak detected in August, two months after the last voyage of the vessel.
Until Tuesday, astronauts had only been able to investigate the gap from the spaceship.
The & # 39; micro-fracture & # 39; is supposed to be about 2 mm wide in the $ 150 billion (£ 115 billion) space station that was discovered after astronauts noticed a pressure drop that allowed air to slowly run out of the space station. A spacewalk of seven hours and 45 minutes localized the source of the suspicious hole
Astronauts were forced to cut a gaping hole in the side of the Soyuz capsule on the ISS to find a mystery leak. Dramatic images and images show isolation and debris from the hull of the spacecraft that bobbed into space when they hacked the Soyuz capsule with daggers and garden-scissor-like devices
A small hole, only 2 mm wide (photo), proved to be responsible for the loss of valuable cabin pressure that was first detected on August 30
The crew quickly settled and sealed the small hole that caused a slight pressure drop. Space officials said the station has remained safe to operate. There appear to be drill marks around the hole on the inside (shown)
The Russians Sergei Prokopyev and Oleg Kononenko saw the small hole in the external trunk of the Soyuz capsule, more than five hours in their grueling spacewalk.
What made it particularly difficult was that the Soyuz spacecraft, unlike the ISS, was not designed to be repaired in spacewalks and does not have any outside railings that astronauts can hold onto.
& # 39; There is nothing, that is the problem, & # 39; said Mr. Kononenko prior to the trip.
Rogozin called the spacewalk & # 39; unprecedented in complexity & # 39; on Twitter and Roscosmos said it would enter the history of space exploration & # 39 ;.
The aerospace agency Roscosmos said the goal was to discover whether it is small but dangerous & # 39; hole on earth or in space was made and the spacewalkers reported that there were no drill marks around the black point, like on the inside.
In August, the crew member repaired the hole in the Soyuz capsule and put it down with epoxy and gauze.
Russian space officials wanted to view the site from the outside, before the capsule returned to Earth next week with Mr. Prokopyev and two others.
Rscosmos chef Dmitry Rogozin said the hole during fabrication or in orbit around the earth & # 39; could have been drilled. A series of tools were needed to get through the thick shell and isolation of the Soyuz capsule (photo)
Dramatic images show isolation and debris from the hull of the spacecraft that floats in space when the astronauts use knives (photos), daggers and garden-scissor-like devices to gouge the MS-09 capsule attached to the spacecraft
This part of the capsule is removed as usual before atmospheric re-entry, and therefore does not pose a risk for descent on 20 December.
Mr. Prokopyev and Mr. Kononenko had to use a few telescopic trees to reach the Soyuz and said that it took almost four hours before they walked about 100 feet to get to the capsule.
Another one to two hours was needed to remove the external and internal insulation, because Mr. Kononenko had to cut a piece of steel of 10 centimeters of insulation and debris to get there.
Cutters and a long knife were used to gain access to the hull and pieces of grated silver insulation can float away like confetti in the abyss of space.
Mission Control repeatedly urged the spacewalkers to take a few minutes of rest, trying to collect samples of the black epoxy sealant that protrudes from the hole, only a tenth of an inch wide.
Unlike the ISS, the Soyuz capsule was not designed to be repaired in spacewalks and has no outside for astronauts to hold (shown)
Mr. Prokopyev and Mr. Kononenko had to use a pair of telescopic booms to reach the Soyuz and said that it took almost four hours before they walked about 100 feet to get to the capsule (photo).
The leak in the capsule caused a flap between the American and Russian space agencies, after the discovery at the end of August.
The Russian spaceflight leader Dmitry Rogozin noted in October that an investigation had ruled out a manufacturing defect and had not been made in space. He had previously said that Russia's intentional interference in space & # 39; not exclude.
The commander of the space station at the time flatly denied any wrongdoing by him or his crew.
Mr. Rogozin has since reversed his statement and blamed the news media for twisting his words.
According to Rogozin, a Russian investigation is in progress, and samples collected during the spacewalk are brought back to Earth on the Soyuz.
Mission Control repeatedly urged the spacewalkers to take a few minutes of rest, trying to collect samples of the black epoxy sealant that protrudes from the hole, only a tenth of an inch as they travel 200 miles above the earth floated
The Russian spaceflight leader Dmitry Rogozin noted in October that an investigation had ruled out a manufacturing defect and had not been made in space. He had previously said that Russia's intentional interference in space & # 39; not exclude. Evidence of the spacewalk (photo) helps to solve the mystery
WHAT CAN HAVE CAUSED A HOLE IN THE ISS?
Theory one – it was caused by a small meteorite
A small hole appeared in a Russian space capsule concluded on August 30 for the ISS.
The & # 39; micro-break & # 39; which reportedly was about 2 mm wide in the $ 150 billion (£ 115 billion) space station was discovered after astronauts noticed a drop in pressure.
The astronaut of the European space agency, Alexander Gerst, allegedly had his finger crossed before the crew patched it with tape.
The gap was confirmed restored by Friday (August 31) after the cabin pressure returned to normal.
Initially it was thought that it was caused by a small meteorite and astronauts used tape to seal the leak after it caused a small pressure drop.
Theory two – it was deliberately made in orbit around the earth
As the investigation continued, however, it began to look like the hole was made of someone inside, as opposed to outside, either back on earth or in space, claimed the Russian space agency.
Roscosmos chef Dmitry Rogozin said in September that the hole could have been drilled during production or in a job with a "wavering hand."
He did not say whether he suspected one of the American crew members, but the statement led to some bewilderment.
Sources suggest that the question of how to repair the gap may have strained relations between Moscow and Houston.
Rogozin has since abandoned his statement in which he blamed the media for turning his words and said that he never 'pointed' the American astronauts.
Theory three – it was caused by a worker at Energia
A leading theory of an unnamed source at Energia said that the hole was made on the ground – possibly caused by 'intentional interference' & # 39; – with suggestions that the responsible person may already have identified.
Another anonymous source said the hole was drilled by an employee who hid their mistake with a seal instead of reporting it.
An unnamed source at Energia told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti that & # 39;