Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, has threatened to press charges against a NASA astronaut who it claims drilled a two millimeter hole in a Soyuz MS-09 vehicle that was docked with the International Space Station (ISS) in 2018.
The agency recently completed its investigation into what it deems was a sabotage, citing Serena Auñón-Chancellor, a crew member of the ISS at the time of the incident, as the culprit.
The allegations have been handed over to Russian law enforcement, allowing Roscosmos to announce the possibility of criminal charges.
The Izvestia newspaper reported on Friday, citing sources, that Auñón-Chancellor made the hole with the hopes of return home early, TASS reports.
Sources told the Russian news outlet that Auñón-Chancellor wanted to leave the orbiting laboratory due to a blood clot or fight wither her boyfriend onboard the ISS.
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Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, has threatened to press charges against a NASA astronaut who it claims drilled a two millimeter hole in a Soyuz MS-09 vehicle that was docked with the International Space Station (ISS) in 2018
DailyMail.com has reached out to NASA for more information and has yet to receive a response.
According to a report in TASS, Roscosmos insiders claim there were multiple holes drilled by someone unfamiliar with the module design and without proper support to ensure accurate drilling in low gravity.
The hole was spotted on August 30, 2018, after a pressure drop was identified due to an air leak.
Russian cosmonauts quickly plugged the hole and restored pressure, patching it up with several layers of epoxy resin – a glue-like substance.
The agency recently completed its investigation into what it deems was a sabotage, citing Serena Auñón-Chancellor, a crew member of the ISS at the time of the incident, as the culprit
The allegations have been handed over to Russian law enforcement, allowing Roscosmos to announce the possibility of criminal charges. The hole was spotted on August 30, 2018, after a pressure drop was identified due to an air leak
After the hole was sealed cosmonauts carried out photo- and video surveillance of the hole using an endoscope.
A Russian official said in September 2018 that the hole appeared to have been punctured using a drill, and could have been caused deliberately by someone on the ground.
Russia opened an investigation into what caused the hole in 2019 and shared allegations in Augusts that Auñón-Chancellor made the hole.
NASA responded by saying it does not comment on medical matters but disputed the claim, describing the astronaut as extremely well respected and as making many invaluable contributions.
Bill Nelson, head of NASA posted on Twitter in August: ‘I fully support Serena.’
However, the latest development now opens the door for Russia’s Roscosmos to press charges against Auñón-Chancellor.
NASA claimed the astronauts on board were never in danger of suffocation due to the ‘lifeboat’ spacecraft attached to the station to provide a return to Earth.
Russian cosmonauts quickly plugged the hole and restored pressure, patching it up with several layers of epoxy resin – a glue-like substance
Later, images and further investigation revealed the hole had been made from the inside, ruling out space debris as the cause.
Sergey Prokopyev and two other astronauts, Auñón-Chancellor of NASA and Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, were on board when it as detected.
The allegation against Auñón-Chancellor was made in an article published by TASS claiming to ‘debunk’ 12 things America claims about the Russian space agency.
They report it would not have been possible for the damage to happen on Earth as the ship would never pass vacuum chamber tests, essential to be flight ready.
‘If there were any holes in it, then the pressure in this ship would immediately drop and it would not pass the appropriate tests. Thus, Roscosmos immediately ruled out the version of damage to Soyuz-MS-09 on Earth,’ TASS reported.
It then goes on to discuss the mental health of Auñón-Chancellor, suggesting she took drastic action to ‘speed up her return to Earth’.
It lists the reasons behind the defamatory claim, suggesting the video camera at the junction of the Russian and American segments ‘mysteriously’ stopped working at the time and that the US astronauts refused to pass a polygraph.
Roscosmos insiders told TASS that the Russian astronauts took a polygraph and added the agency wasn’t allowed to examine the tools and drills on the ISS for presence of the remains of metal shavings.
It went on to add that of the eight holes only one went all the way through, the rest appeared to just scuff the walls.
WHAT COULD HAVE CAUSED A HOLE IN THE ISS?
Theory one – it was caused by a small meteorite
A tiny hole appeared in a Russian space capsule locked to the ISS on 30th August.
The ‘micro fracture’ believed to be around 2mm wide in the $150 billion (£115 billion) space station was discovered after astronauts noticed a drop in pressure.
European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst reportedly put his finger over the hole before crew patched it with tape.
The hole was confirmed repaired by Friday (31 August) after cabin pressure returned to normal.
It was initially believed to have been caused by a small meteorite and astronauts used tape to seal the leak after it caused a minor loss of pressure.
Theory two – it was made deliberately while in orbit
However, as the investigation went on it began to look like the hole was made from someone inside as opposed to outside, either back on Earth or in space, the Russian space agency claimed.
Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said in September that the hole could have been drilled during manufacturing or while in orbit with a ‘wavering hand’.
He didn’t say if he suspected any of the US crew, but the statement has caused some bewilderment.
Sources suggest the question of how to fix the hole may have strained relations between Moscow and Houston.
Rogozin has since reneged on his statement blaming the media for twisting his words and said that he ‘never pointed the finger at U.S. astronauts’.
Theory three – it was caused by a worker at Energia
A leading theory from an unnamed source at Energia said the hole was made on the ground – potentially caused by ‘deliberate interference’ – with suggestions the person responsible may have already been identified.
Another anonymous source said the hole was drilled by a worker who hid their mistake with a seal instead of reporting it.
An unnamed source at Energia told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti that ‘[t]he hole was made on the ground’.
According to the source, ‘[t]he person responsible for the act of negligence has been identified’.
Another anonymous source said the hole was not made intentionally but by a worker who hid their mistake with a seal instead of reporting it.
The patchwork repair lasted the trip up to the ISS but after three weeks in orbit gradually peeled away.