Wild theories about sabotage continue to exist two weeks after a mysterious pressure on the International Space Station has occurred, and the gossip has become so absurd that both NASA and Russia's state space company Roscosmos are now trying to suppress the rumors.
In a joint statement released today, NASA and Roscosmos claim that the US space agency is working closely with Russia to identify the cause of the leak. The statement also notes that no information will be released until the Russian-led investigation is over, despite the unrestrained speculation in the Russian press that the leak is possibly caused by an astronaut from NASA in space.
During a teleconference yesterday, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine and general director Dmitry Rogozin of Roscosmos confirmed the need for further close interaction between NASA and Roscosmos technical teams in identifying and eliminating the cause of the leak, as well as the continuation of normal ISS operations and the continued support from NASA of the Soyuz study conducted by Roscosmos, "the statement said." They recognized that the entire crew is dedicated to the safe operation of the station and all coupled spacecraft to ensure the success of the mission. . "
NASA and Roscosmos discovered for the first time on Wednesday, August 29, a drop in the pressure of the space station around 7 pm ET, assuming there was a kind of leak on the ISS. However, the air escaped so slowly that flight controllers chose not to wake the crew. The next day, the six astronauts on board the ISS traced the leak to a small hole in one of the two Russian Soyuz capsules that were attached to the space station – the vehicles that brought crews to and from Earth. This specific Soyuz has been with the ISS since 8 June and the gap was found in one of the modules that was thrown overboard before the Soyuz entered the Earth's atmosphere during its descent. So the piece is not necessary for the whole trip back to the ground.
The gap was successfully restored on Thursday, August 30, but the mystery about the origin of the gap has remained. Ideas about in-space sabotage were first suggested by Roscosmos, who formed a state commission to get to the bottom of the leak. After rejecting the theory of a micrometeoroid impact, Rogozin said it looked like the hole was made by a drill. (NASA reportedly published and then photo 's removed from the hole, which looked like it was made by a kind of drill.) Rogozin noted that Roscosmos "would discover whether it was an unintentional defect or an intentional decay and where it was done – on Earth or in space," according to a report in TASS .
Russia has a well-known history of blaming spacecraft for possible sabotage, so this type of behavior is not new. The gossip about the leak, however, seems to have only increased in recent weeks. As first reported by Ars Technica, a story published in Russia Kommersant quoted anonymous sources from Roscosmos, who claimed that researchers were studying the possibility that the gap was caused by a NASA astronaut. The theory was that one of the three American crew members had become ill, so one of the astronauts caused the leak to force a rapid evacuation to Earth.
Indeed, the rumors have become so bad that ISS commander Drew Feustel actually had to deny that everyone on board of the station was involved in one way or another. "I can say unequivocally that the crew undoubtedly had nothing to do with this job, and I actually find it a disgrace and a bit embarrassing that someone wastes every moment talking about something the crew was involved in," said Feustel. in an interview from space with ABC News, as reported by CBS.
Although he first abandoned the theory of sabotage, Rogozin has criticized journalists for speculation about the cause of the leak. "The recent gossip and rumors circulating around the ISS incident are hampering the work of Roscosmos experts and are designed to undermine the friendly relations between the crew of the space station," said Rogozin on Facebook, according to a TASS report. "All statements quoting unnamed sources are inadmissible until the special committee of Roscosmos terminates its work," he added.
Meanwhile there is another, more plausible theory, which is still on the table: that the hole was made by a worker on the ground, who then repaired it hastily before the Soyuz was launched on 6 June. Then the patch was removed in one way or another, revealing the hole. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said that wrong work on earth is not excluded, TASS reports.
In a previous statement on 5 September, Roscosmos said it plans to complete its investigation this month. "All conclusions and decisions will be announced after the work of the commission has been completed," the company said.