Who Sabotaged The International Space Station?

250 miles above the surface of the Earth, suspended in orbit, rests the International Space Station Since 1998, this collaborative effort has reminded us what humanity can achieve when working together

However, in August 2018, a small hole in a capsule aboard the ISS threatened to destroy that unity Who would want to sabotage the International Space Station? And why? In the middle of the night on the 30th August 2018, flight controllers on Earth discovered that air pressure aboard the ISS had fallen slightly, indicating a leak The size of the drop was relatively minor, so it posed little immediate danger The six-strong crew were not awoken to deal with the problem In the morning, the search began for the cause of the drop in air pressure

Eventually they settled on a small, two millimetre hole in the hull of the Soyuz capsule used to bring resources and astronauts aboard The capsule had arrived in June 2018, bringing three astronauts: Sergey Prokopyev of Russia, Serena Aunon-Chancellor from NASA and Alexander Gerst from Germany The hole was in a section of the capsule that doesn’t return to Earth As a precaution, Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency, boosted oxygen supply on board the ISS while the crew fixed the hole with tape and sealant No-one was in extreme danger and hull integrity was retained

Attention turned to what caused the breach Initially, NASA and Roscosmos believed the hole was caused by a micrometeorite These are rocks, no larger than a pea, that travel hundreds of kilometres per hour and can punch holes through metal In 2013, astronaut Chris Hadfield documented a similar incident when a micrometeorite caused a “bullet hole” in one of the solar arrays In 2016, another micrometeorite caused a significant seven-millimetre sized chip in the ISS quadruple-glazed cupola

In both circumstances, pictures were taken and posted on NASA’s Twitter However, almost as soon as pictures of the latest hole went live, they were taken down, and have yet to be reuploaded Days later, on 4th September, Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin dismissed suggestions of a micrometeorite strike During a press conference, Rogozin claimed the hole appeared to have been made deliberately from the inside, and possibly by a “wavering hand” Russian media suggested NASA was involved

According to Russian newspaper Kommersant, the special commission investigating the leak is treating possible American sabotage as a priority An anonymous source said the hole did not appear to have significant pressure placed behind the drill This is typical of work conducted in weightlessness This same source suggested the sabotage was done by a sick American crewmember in order to trigger an evacuation of the entire crew back to Earth The incriminating evidence would burn up on re-entry

This theory is supported by Russian MP and former Cosmonaut Maxim Surayev He says, “We’re all human, and anyone might want to go home but this method is really low… If a cosmonaut pulled this strange stunt – and that can’t be ruled out – it’s really bad” Yet American commander Andrew Feustel says, “I can unequivocally say that the crew had nothing to do with this… I think it's absolutely a shame and somewhat embarrassing that anybody is wasting any time talking about something that the crew was involved in" If a crewmember was so desperate to return to Earth as to drill into the hull of the ISS, their ploy backfired The International Space Station cost approximately $150 billion and has a pressurised volume similar to a Boeing 747

Despite this, the interior of the ISS is extraordinarily cramped, making sabotage tricky to pull off without being noticed Additionally, the hole was made in the Russian area, which has restricted access to only Russian astronauts Furthermore, the hole was made in such a location and fashion that it would be almost immediately seen and identified as sabotage Meanwhile, drilling itself is difficult in low gravity Pablo De Leon, an aerospace engineer at the University of North Dakota, says, ""You need to push with enough force to penetrate both the fibreglass and the aluminium wall

It's mechanically difficult to do You have no way to secure yourself with one hand in that particular space to make the hole with the second hand"" As for Maxim Surayev’s claims that it could have been the work of a mentally unstable astronaut, the selection process for all those who go to space is rigorous and designed to pick people capable of enduring extreme stress Resorting to potentially life-threatening sabotage just to get a trip back to Earth, is out of character Two anonymous sources quoted by Russian news agency RIA Novosti, said that the hole could have been made on Earth due to negligence

The sources, who both allegedly work within the rocket and space industry, explained that the most credible explanation was that someone made a mistake on Earth and attempted to seal the crack with glue As a result, the spacecraft passed pressurisation tests, but once in space the glue dried and compressed It then fell off, exposing the hole Thankfully, whatever the cause, the astronauts have not been effected Sergey Prokopyev posted on social media, “As you can see, everything is calm on board; we are living in peace and friendship as always

” With no official reason yet given for the cause of the mysterious hole, the accusations are so far little more than conjecture NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine reaffirmed his country’s commitment to international cooperation, and stressed Russian involvement in space is still welcome The International Space Station remains a great symbol of humanity’s common future However, with Russo-American relations on Earth appearing to freeze, it is difficult to look at this latest development and not believe that we may be going backwards

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