In a weird update to an already strange story, the head of the Russian space agency reportedly announced that they now know what caused a mysterious hole that was found in a Soyuz capsule attached to the ISS last summer, but they are refusing to tell anyone their findings. The two-millimeter-in-diameter bit of damage was discovered in late August of 2018 when a drop in cabin pressure aboard the ISS was traced back to the inexplicable opening which was subsequently patched with various adhesives by the space station crew.
Although the hole was sealed, the question of what created it was very much still open and spawned a number of different theories. The possibility that it was formed as the result of a tiny, but fast-moving space rock was considered and rejected when it was found that the hole was created from the inside of the capsule. This led to some worrisome speculation that the damage could have been done intentionally with one wild rumor circulating in Russia that the American astronauts aboard the ISS made the hole in an effort to force a return to Earth since one of their colleagues had gotten sick.
That remarkable scenario was quickly rebuffed by NASA, who posited that signs of drilling around the hole did not necessarily mean that it was made on purpose and they pledged to work with the Russian space agency to determine what caused the damage. That search for an answer ultimately led to what was called an “unprecedented’ spacewalk in which a pair of Russian cosmonauts cut into the Soyuz capsule from the outside in order to garner data on the puzzling opening. From there, the mystery largely went cold until last week when the head of Russia’s space agency revived the story and added a new layer of intrigue to the odd affair.
Speaking at a conference in St. Petersburg, Dmitry Rogozin told attendees that the hole was located in the “household compartment” of the Soyuz capsule and that the Russian space agency “took all the samples,” presumably from the aforementioned spacewalk. He went on to reveal that “what happened is clear to us, but we won’t tell you anything.” Rogozin punctuated the tantalizing declaration by arguing that “there must be some secret with us.” It would appear that the claim of having solved the mystery was news to NASA as the agency’s administrator Jim Bridenstine told the Houston Chronicle that the Russian space agency “have not told me anything.”
The secrecy surrounding the source of the hole leaves NASA is something of a predicament as the space agency relies on their Russian counterpart for ferrying American astronauts to and from the ISS via the Soyuz. Perhaps with that in mind, Bridenstine seemed cautious in how he approached the issue, musing that “I don’t want to let one item” damage the relationship between the two space agencies. It remains to be seen whether or not we’ll ever learn exactly what caused the damage, but the NASA chief understandably expressed concern about the situation since “it is clearly not acceptable that there are holes in the International Space Station.”