In a new interview, the commander of the current mission slammed the suggestion that a recent air leak was caused by the astronauts onboard the orbiting laboratory.
"I can unequivocally say that the crew had nothing do with this," said NASA Astronaut Feustel to ABC News. "I think it's absolutely a shame and somewhat embarrassing that anybody is wasting any time talking about something that the crew was involved in."
The Mysterious ISS Leak
On the evening of Aug. 29, ground control noticed that there was a slight change in the air pressure aboard the ISS. All six astronauts currently living and working in the outpost were told the next day and were instructed to look for the source.
Eventually, they found the 2-millimeter hole in the hull of a Soyuz capsule, the Russian spacecraft that sends astronauts to the ISS. This is where things got weird: the capsule arrived at the ISS in June carrying an American astronaut and another astronaut from the European Space Agency. The hole was also found in the part of the capsule that does not get sent back to Earth.
The Russians wanted to investigate further to find out what had caused the hole. First, they considered a micrometeoroid similar to an event in 2013 hit and left a hole on one of the solar panels on the ISS.
However, this week, they suggested that whatever caused the hole, it did not come from outside of the orbiting outpost.
"It is too early to say definitely what happened. But, it seems to be done by a faltering hand," stated Dimitry Rogozin, head of Russia's Roscosmos. "It is a technological error by a specialist. It was done by a human hand."
They said they are not rejecting any theory and as of now, they cannot tell for sure if the hole was done from back when the capsule was still on Earth or in space.
Apparently, in Russia, a theory around the hole is spreading like wildfire. Several publications have printed stories about the leak, suggesting that a NASA astronaut deliberately drilled a hole in the capsule to force sick crew members to evacuate.
According to a news site via Ars Technica, a Russian investigator is pursuing the possibility that an American astronaut might have created the hole. The story claims that around August, one of the American crew members — Commander Feustel and Astronauts Ricky Arnold and Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor — got sick.
However, to return back home, a Soyuz capsule needs three crew members to travel but NASA did not want to shoulder the expense of a new Soyuz. Thus, one of them drilled the hole.
The hole was not an immediate threat to the six members of the crew aboard the ISS, but it is a relief that the problem was detected as early as now, and not in December when three of the astronauts are scheduled to return to Earth.
The ISS was back to normal by Friday last week.