Two Russian cosmonauts will venture outside the International Space Station to inspect a section of a Russian spacecraft where a small hole was spotted.
The mysterious leak was discovered on Aug 30th in the Russian Soyuz craft which is attached to the ISS.
Suspicions have arisen since the holes discovery that it was drilled deliberately in a case of foreign sabotage.
Oleg Kononenko and Sergei Prokopyev will conduct a six-hour spacewalk to inspect the Soyuz’s exterior today.
They will uncover the thermal insulation covering the patched hole and take samples that will be studied by experts.
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The crew quickly located and sealed the tiny hole that created a slight loss of pressure. Space officials said the station has remained safe to operate. Oleg Kononenko and Sergei Prokopyev will conduct a six-hour spacewalk to inspect the Soyuz’s exterior today
The tiny hole created a slight loss of pressure causing air to slowly rush out of the space station.
The crew on board quickly located and sealed the gap with epoxy, fixing the problem temporarily.
Space officials said the station has remained safe to operate until further investigation were carried out.
Initially, experts had suggested that the hole was caused by a tiny rock that hit the space station causing the damage to form.
‘This leak seems to have resulted from a micrometeoroid impact,’ tweeted ISS veteran Scott Kelly in one representative tweet.
However, Russian reports citing anonymous sources suggest that the problem could have existed from the time the Soyuz capsule was launched to dock with the International Space Station.
The reports say that the damage might have been treated with a temporary fix that has recently come undone.
Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency said in September that the hole could have been drilled during manufacturing or while in orbit.
He didn’t say if he suspected any of the US crew, but the statement has caused some bewilderment.
Mr 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’.
The International Space Station Configuration as of the Dec 8th 2018. Six spaceships are attached at the space station including the U.S. resupply ships Northrop Grumman Cygnus and the SpaceX Dragon; and Russia’s Progress 70 and 71 resupply ships and the Soyuz MS-09 and MS-10 crew ships all from Roscosmos
Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques and Oleg Kononenko, pictured, launched from the cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, before their spacecraft made four orbits over six hours as it chased down the space station for the docking
The Russian probe is ongoing and three of the station’s crew will take the samples back to Earth on Dec 20th.
Rogozin added that Roscosmos will discuss the probe findings with NASA and other space station partners.
Russian cosmonaut Mr Kononenko, who arrived at the station earlier this month with NASA astronaut Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, said in a pre-flight interview that the spacewalk would be a strenuous effort.
‘It’s going to be challenging both physically and technically,’ he said.
Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques and Oleg Kononenko launched from the cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz rocket last week.
Russia’s Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft carrying the members of the International Space Station (ISS) expedition 58/59, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronaut Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, blasts off to the ISS from the launch pad at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome on December 3, 2018
Their spacecraft made four orbits over six hours as it chased down the space station for the docking.
Anne McClain, a 39-year-old former military pilot, said the crew looked forward to embarking outside the ISS.
‘We feel very ready for it,’ she said.
Mr Kononenko is beginning his fourth mission to add to an impressive 533 days in space.
Lift-off of the Soyuz rocket carrying the three crew happened at 6.31 ET (11.31 GMT) from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and replaced an earlier mission which failed in October after the rocket malfunctioned
Anne McClain, Oleg Kononenko and David Saint-Jacques make their way from quarantine towards the Soyuz rocket which launched them into space
Russia-US cooperation in space has so far remained one of the few areas not affected by a crisis in ties between the former Cold War enemies.
But comments by the combative chief of the Soviet space agency have raised eyebrows.
He recently joked Russia would send a mission to the Moon to ‘verify’ whether or not NASA lunar landings ever took place.
RUSSIA’S SOYUZ: DECADES OF BLASTING INTO SPACE
The Soyuz programme is an ongoing human spaceflight programme which was initiated by the Soviet Union in the early 1960s, originally part of a Moon landing project.
There have been 138 manned missions, of which 11 have failed and one astronaut has died.
Here are some of the notable failures, including one in 1967 when an astronaut was killed, one in 1975 when two astronauts hurtle to Earth.
1967: Soviet astronaut Vladimir Komarov was killed during landing due to a parachute failure
1975: Two Russian astronauts had to abort a mission to a Russian space station at an altitude of 90miles due to a rocket failure.
They hurtled towards Earth and safely landed in the Altai Mountains on the Russia-China border.
One of the astronauts never flew to space again, never fully recovered from the accident and died aged 62 in 1990. The other made two more flights.
1983: A rocket malfunctioned during the countdown to take off in southern Kazakhstan.
Automatic systems ejected the two Russian crew-members just seconds before the rocket exploded. The fire burned on the launch pad for 20 hours.
2002: A Soyuz ship carrying a satellite crashed during launch in Russia when a booster suffered an engine malfunction. The ship landed near the launch pad, killing one engineer on the ground.
2011: A Soyuz-U mission carrying cargo failed to launch to the International Space Station when the upper stage experienced a problem and broke up over Siberia.
2016: Another cargo ship was lost shortly after launch, likely due to a problem with the third stage of the Soyuz-U.
August 2018: A hole in a Soyuz capsule docked to the International Space Station caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched.
The Russians claimed the hole was drilled deliberately in an act of sabotage either on Earth or in orbit. Another theory is that the hole was a production defect.