Russian Cosmonauts Investigate Mysterious Hole In ISS During Six-Hour Space Walk

A NASA astronaut on a spacewalk in 2010

A NASA astronaut on a spacewalk in 2010

Russian cosmonauts are preparing to inspect a mysterious hole on the exterior of a damaged Soyuz capsule, a complex spacewalk that could take upwards of six hours to complete.

Head of Russia's State Space Corporation Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin stated in early October that a commission investigating the appearance of the hole ruled out a manufacturing flaw as the cause of the incident.

Kononenko arrived at the ISS on a Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft last Tuesday, along with NASA's Anne McClain and the Canadian Space Agency's David Saint-Jacques, weeks after the previous launch had to be aborted shortly after takeoff.

The hole was discovered after crew members traced an air leak that was causing the minor loss of pressure on the ISS.

George Washington University space policy expert John Logsdon told NPR in September that there is "a kind of generalized concern about the decline of quality control in Russian space industry in recent years". The fix halted the leak, and the space station has since maintained a steady pressure.

A Russian investigation is ongoing, according to Rogozin, and samples collected during the spacewalk will be returned to Earth on the Soyuz.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko peels away thermal insulation from Soyuz MS-09 after slicing into it with a knife. As they cut into the spacecraft, small fragments of the material floated away and formed a cloud of debris. But Russian officials stated a few days after the hole was discovered that, based on its shape, it looked to have been drilled.

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For today's spacewalk, Kononenko and Prokopyev will be inspecting the external surface of the capsule in the area around the hole.

Kononenko used a pair of forceps and a swab to collect samples of the dark epoxy.

Kononenko was then instructed to use forceps to grab a piece of the epoxy to bring back to Earth for analysis.

With the spacewalk running long on time, flight controllers made a decision to forgo having Kononenko and Prokopyev install a replacement insulation blanket over the spacecraft's exposed skin.

Three returning spacefliers will take their seats in a separate area of the Soyuz spacecraft, the descent module, and the habitation module will be jettisoned as usual before atmospheric re-entry.

Kononenko was wearing a spacesuit with red stripes and designated extravehicular crew member 1 (EV1)-the lead spacewalker-while Prokopyev wore a spacesuit with blue stripes and was designated EV2.

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