Over two weeks after an air leak was detected and sealed aboard a Soyuz TMA capsule berthed with the International Space Station (ISS), NASA and the Russian space Agency, Roscosmos, have issued a joint statement. The release says that the two agencies have complete confidence in one another, as well as in the station crew, that the investigation is well in hand, and that the ISS is operating normally.
The statement comes in the light of developments following the discovery of a loss in pressure aboard the ISS on August 29. This was eventually traced to a two-millimeter hole in the Orbital Module of the Soyuz TMA capsule (MS-09/55S) berthed with the station – one of a pair of Soyuz spacecraft used to ferry crews back and forth from Earth.
This leak was first attributed to a micrometeorite impact, but subsequent reports in the Russian news media and statements attributed to Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin suggested that the hole was actually caused by a worker back on Earth, who accidentally drilled in the wrong place and tried to cover the mistake up with glue.
These and other conflicting reports resulted in a wave of rumors on the internet that the hole was actually the result of sabotage, which had compromised the spacecraft's micrometeorite shield, and might even have been conducted aboard the ISS by one of two American astronauts who make up part of the six-person crew.
Without directly addressing the rumors, the joint statement says that Rogozin and NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine met in a teleconference on September 12 to discuss the air leak incident. The Russians confirmed that they are carrying on an investigation of the Soyuz, which is a Russian-flagged space vessel, and that both NASA and Roscosmos will refrain from making any remarks about the cause of the hole until the commission files its report.
The statement went on to note the cooperation between the NASA and Roscosmos technical teams in dealing with the leak and expressed full confidence in the dedication of the ISS crew.
Bridenstine and Rogozin are scheduled to meet in person when the NASA chief visits the Baikonur Cosmodrome In Kazakhstan on October 10 to witness the Soyuz launch of American astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexy Ovchinin.
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