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THE HOLE THING

A tiny mystery in space is snowballing into a drawn-out earthly scandal

The International Space Station photographed by Expedition 56 crew members from a Soyuz spacecraft after undocking.
NASA
Whodunit.
  • Chase Purdy
By Chase Purdy

Food Reporter

Back on Earth after a 197-day mission aboard the International Space Station, the Russian cosmonaut Sergei Prokopyev is saying the mysterious hole in the wall of a capsule attached to the ISS was an inside job.

An inside job in that it was drilled from within the capsule, Prokopyev says—not created by space debris or a tiny micrometeoroid. Whether the hole behind a toilet in the Soyuz craft was created during the manufacturing of the capsule or by a fellow astronaut remains to be determined. Russian investigators are examining samples Prokopyev and a fellow cosmonaut collected during a Dec. 12 spacewalk, according to the Associated Press.

Their report is the latest piece of information in an unfolding mystery that began on Aug. 29, when flight controllers monitoring the ISS detected a slight drop in pressure. The controllers alerted the six crew members, who found a 2-millimeter hole inside the Soyuz. Prokopyev patched the hole with gauze and epoxy, a temporary solution.

That a fellow astronaut drilled the hole is merely a conspiracy theory at this point, initially floated by Dmitry Rogozin, chief of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. The insinuation has since created some friction between Roscosmos and US counterpart NASA.

Prokopyev has worked to push against that conspiracy theory, telling inquiring reporters, “You shouldn’t think so badly of our crew.”

One theory is that it was caused by the errant drill of a Russian manufacturing technician. Only instead of reporting the hole, the technician appears to have covered the hole with a patch that came free once the capsule was in space.

With the new information in hand, Roscosmos is pushing forward with its investigation meant to set aside rumor and conspiracies to get to the bottom of the issue. Until that investigation is complete, the tiny hole will remain a matter of major speculation.

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