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Cosmos. NASA-Roscosmos dispute. The Russians accuse the American astronaut of sabotage

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The Russian investigation into the hole discovered on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft while docking at the International Space Station in 2018 has ended. The Russians say that American astronaut Serena Aunon-Cancellor was behind the flaw, accusing her of sabotage. NASA refutes these allegations.

In August 2018, NASA ground control detected a slight drop in pressure at the International Space Station. It turned out that the reason for the decompression was a two-millimeter hole in one of the walls of the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which was then docked with the ISS. Crew members temporarily patched the hole with epoxy resin.


Russian hole investigation

The Russian space agency Roscosmos has launched an investigation into the matter. Now, more than three years after the incident, Roscosmos told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti that the results of the investigation into the mysterious breach in the ship were sent to the Russian prosecutor’s office, reports the US Newsweek. “All the results of the investigation into the hole in the housing module of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft have been handed over to law enforcement officers” – reported the Russian space agency, quoted by “Newsweek”. No more details were given.

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The American research portal Ars Technica indicates that although the hole did not ultimately pose a direct threat to the crew of the International Space Station, its detection was compromising to Roscosmos. According to the magazine, the investigation initiated by the Russian agency quickly ruled out that the cause of the fault was a micrometeorite strike. Some Russian media speculated that the hole was the result of a manufacturing defect in the ship. Over time, the American NASA astronaut Serena Aunon-Cancellor, who flew to the ISS aboard the aforementioned Soyuz MS-09 in June 2018, was taken under the microscope. The Russian news agency TASS was the first to report that an American is blamed by the Russians for the appearance of the hole.

Roscosmos director Dmitry Rogozin told Russian media in 2019 that the agency was “considering all theories.” – The one about the meteor strike was denied because the hull of the spacecraft was evidently damaged from the inside. However, it is too early to judge what happened – he said. – This (the hole – ed.) Was made by a human hand. There are drill marks on the surface of the wall. We do not rule out any scenario, said Rogozin.

Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft docked at the ISSNASA

NASA defends its astronaut

As “Newsweek” reminds, in 2019 the then head of NASA Jim Bridenstine promised to speak to the head of Roscosom in person about the investigation conducted by the Russians. Earlier, the Russian space agency said it would not make the details of the investigation public.

Bridenstine addressed the case in September 2019 at a press conference in Houston. – (Russians – ed.) They didn’t tell me anything. I do not want one thing to negatively affect our relations, but it is obviously unacceptable that there are holes on the International Space Station – said the head of NASA at the time.

The allegations against Aunon-Cancellor were addressed in August this year by Kathy Lueders, head of NASA’s spaceflight department. “NASA astronauts, including Serena Aunon-Cancellor, are extremely respected, serving their country and making an invaluable contribution to the agency,” she wrote on Twitter. “We stand behind Serena and her professional conduct. We do not believe in these accusations” – she emphasized.

The current head of NASA Bill Nelson also stood up in defense of the American astronaut. – These attacks are bogus and lack credibility. I fully support Serena and all our astronauts, Nelson assured Ars Technica.

The beginning of the end of Russian-American space cooperation?

As Newsweek writes, reports that the Russians are considering prosecuting an American for damage to a spacecraft appeared last month after Russia conducted an anti-satellite weapon test in space, during which an old Russian satellite was destroyed. The cloud of debris, created after the satellite’s destruction, was close to colliding with the International Space Station (ISS) and forced the people working there to evacuate to escape pods.

Given its long and rich history of manned spaceflight, it is inconceivable that Russia would pose a threat not only to American and international astronauts on the ISS, but also to its own cosmonauts. The actions of (Russians – ed.) Are reckless and dangerous, they also threaten the Chinese space station – said the head of NASA after the incident.

As “Newsweek” points out, the time of many years of Russian-American cooperation within the International Space Station may be coming to an end. In June this year, the head of Roscosmos announced that the “aging of the ISS” and the rising costs of its maintenance may mean that Russia will end its participation in the project as early as 2025, “Newsweek” reminds.

Main photo source: NASA

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