A leak that was found aboard the International Space Station (ISS) last week could have been caused deliberately, it has emerged.
It was initially thought that the small hole, which NASA claimed to have been found on one of a pair of Soyuz spacecraft attached to the ISS orbiting base, was caused by an impact with a meteorite.
However, a Russian official has warned it might have been something a little more sinister - possibly caused by drilling from the inside of the spaceship.
Dmitry Rogozin, director general of Roscosmos (the Russian equivalent of NASA), told the Russian news agency TASS:
"We are considering all the theories [but] the one about a meteorite impact has been rejected because the spaceship's hull was evidently impacted from inside.
He added: "It was done by a human hand - there are traces of a drill sliding along the surface. However, it is too early to say definitely what happened. But, it seems to be done by a faltering hand […] it is a technological error by a specialist."
As a result, an urgent investigation into the incident is now underway, the authorities said.
"It is a matter of honour for Energia Rocket and Space Corporation to find the one responsible for that, to find out whether it was an accidental defect or a deliberate spoilage and where it was done - either on Earth or in space,' Rogozin added.
"Now it is essential to see the reason, to learn the name of the one responsible for that. And we will find out, without fail."
Cabin pressure on @Space_Station is holding steady after the crew conducted repair work on one of two Russian Soyuz spacecraft attached to the complex. The repair was made to address a leak that had caused a minor reduction of pressure. Details: https://t.co/bCgcvz8bTb pic.twitter.com/PRGN1d94gw— NASA (@NASA) August 30, 2018
NASA has claimed that none of the astronauts aboard the ISS are in any danger due to the hole. "The rate of the leak was slowed […] through the temporary application of Kapton tape at the leak site," the space agency said.
"Flight controllers are working with the crew to develop a more comprehensive long-term repair."
Once the patching is complete, additional leak checks will be performed. "All station systems are stable, and the crew is in no danger"
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