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The head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos announced on Monday its contention that a small hole that had been discovered on a Russian craft docked at the International Space Station was made deliberately, and not a manufacturing defect — a contention that NASA disputes.
Wait … what hole?
On Aug. 30, astronauts discovered a tiny hole, two millimeters in diameter, aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule that was docked at the International Space Station.
The hole did not pose any danger to the astronauts, and did not interfere with the capsule’s ability to shuttle astronauts back to earth. However, it did cause a drop in cabin pressure before it was discovered and repaired.
The drill hole in the Russian Soyuz MS-09 crew craft.
Initially, it was suspected that the damage had been caused by space debris, but within a few days of its discovery Russian authorities issued a release claiming that the hole had been drilled.
What happened now?
Even though Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin announced in early September that there were “several attempts at drilling,” the agency had not ruled out at that point that the defect was caused during manufacturing.
But on Monday, Rogozin announced that an investigation had “concluded that a manufacturing defect had been ruled out which is important to establish the truth.”
At the time that the hole was discovered, the crew of the space station consisted of three Americans, two Russians, and a German.
While the agency has not pinned the blame on anyone, Russian media outlets have reportedly been quick to speculate that an American astronaut could have been behind the damage.
Rogozin said that the location of the Soyuz capsule when the hole was allegedly drilled “will be established by a second commission, which is at work now.”
Has NASA responded?
On Wednesday, NASA released a statement pointing out that this conclusion still doesn’t prove deliberate sabotage. The news release read in part:
Russian media recently reported that General Director Rogozin said the hole was not a manufacturing defect. Ruling out a manufacturing defect indicates that this is an isolated issue which does not categorically affect future production.
This conclusion does not necessarily mean the hole was created intentionally or with mal-intent. NASA and Roscosmos are both investigating the incident to determine the cause. The International Space Station Program is tentatively planning a spacewalk in November to gather more information.