The European Space Agency has published an amazing sped-up time-lapse video of the Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev during their spacewalk as they floated over the Atlantic Ocean. The video was taken from the European Columbus laboratory.
The two cosmonauts look like working honeybees in the upper-right corner in this sped-up video.
On August 29, 2018, NASA mission control in Houston noticed a pressure drop aboard the International Space Station. The small leak was about 0.8 millibars per hour.
As flight controllers monitored their data, the decision was made to allow the Expedition 56 crew to sleep since they were in no danger. When the crew was awakened at its normal hour this morning, flight controllers at Mission Control in Houston and at the Russian Mission Control Center outside Moscow began working procedures to try to determine the location of the leak.
The six crew members, station Commander Drew Feustel, Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), and Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, gathered in the Russian segment of the station and, after extensive checks, reported that the leak appears to be on the Russian side of the orbital outpost, in the Habitation Module of the docked Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft (one Soyuz spacecraft is always remains attached to the space station to allow a quick return in an emergency).
The crew detected two small cracks, reaching 1.5 millimeters in size. ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst first discovered the leak on the wall behind the toilet unit and used his finger to initially plug it.
The cosmonauts photographed the affected area and sent it to mission control for analysis. The leak was successfully sealed with the use of a repair kit based on an epoxy sealant.
The repaired leak was no real threat since it was is in the Soyuz’s Orbital Module and not the critical Descent Module (the part that carries and protects the crew through reentry and landing).
The first estimates indicated that the breach could have been caused by a meteor or debris strike which had punctured the hull of the spacecraft. But the exact reason for the hole remained unexplained.
After some of the traditionally dramatic reports in the mainstream Russian media, some pointing to potential sabotage, the most likely theory of an error during the production of the Soyuz on the ground was deemed to be the most likely root cause.
Then, an EVA (see notes 1) was tasked to at least shed more light on the damaged area and potentially aid confidence the vehicle will be safe for returning its three-person crew. Prokopyev, NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, and ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst are scheduled to depart the station in the Soyuz MS-09 on December 19, 2018.
The EVA examined a section of the external hull of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft, took samples of residue found on the hull, along with digital images of the area before the plan called for the placing a new thermal blanket over it.
The spacewalkers literally cut into the Soyuz’s black thermal blankets and pulled away the insulation to expose the area around the hole.
The samples and images will provide additional information that will aid the investigation into the cause of the pressure leak, according to NASA.
- Spacewalking or Extravehicular activity (EVA) is any activity done by an astronaut or cosmonaut outside a spacecraft beyond the Earth’s appreciable atmosphere (a moonwalk is also an EVA).