Friday, 22 March, 2019

Russian cosmonauts take samples on sixth hour of spacewalk to crack mystery

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko conducts a spacewalk outside the International Space Station Space in this still image captured from NASA video in space Space station crew to inspect mysterious hole on spacewalk
Doris Mccormick | 14 December, 2018, 04:52

Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergei Prokofyev, who are now on a spacewalk, have found the hole in the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft which caused a pressure leak at the International Space Station (ISS) this August.

The hole appeared as a black mark or spot on the exposed metal skin of the Soyuz spacecraft.

The spacewalkers' job was to collect samples of any epoxy sealant that may have protruded from the hole.

To reach the area needed to perform the inspection, Kononenko rode at the end of two Russian Strela booms, translating from the Pirs docking compartment where the spacewalk began to the Zarya functional cargo block (FGB) and then up alongside the Soyuz.

The insulation proved harder to remove than expected.

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To expose the external hull, they cut away a 10-inch (25-centimeter) swatch of thermal insulation and debris shield. As he vigorously cut into the spacecraft, small bits of insulation floated off into space. "It is high time you went home", Mission Control urged. Atmospheric pressure was slowly dropping, and the ISS crew spent the next few hours hunting down that leak. Russian space chief Dmitry Rogozin observed that the hole could have been drilled during manufacturing - or in orbit. Rogozin added that Roscosmos will discuss the probe findings with NASA and other space station partners. The space station's commander at the time flatly denied any wrongdoing by himself or his crew.

Rogozin later backpedaled on his statement.

The Soyuz is scheduled to depart the orbiting lab on December 19, USA time, with Prokopyev, American Serena Aunon-Chancellor and German Alexander Gerst, the station's current skipper.

"The active participation of worldwide partners, primarily NASA, in the investigation is not expected, although we have called for a joint investigation and been ready to provide available materials: photos, videos, documents, samples of materials taken during the spacewalk", the source said.

Remaining aboard the space outpost for the next six months will be an American, Russian and Canadian who arrived last week. The extravehicular activity (EVA) was the 213th spacewalk in support of assembly and maintenance in the 20-year history of the space station.

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