Remember back in 2018 (almost two years ago exactly) when NASA revealed there was a leak in the International Space Station that was most likely due to a micrometeorite? Remember when it turned out to be a botched patch job on the Soyuz capsule that was docked at the ISSS – a patch that could have put the astronauts in danger on their way up had it come unsealed? Remember how the Russian space agency Roscosmos danced around admitting it was treating this as a criminal act by a contractor but refused to talk about how it escaped inspection? Remember? Well, there’s another leak on the International Space Station and NASA is again saying it’s no big deal. Déjà vu?
“In September 2019, NASA and its international partners first saw indications of a slight increase above the standard cabin air leak rate. Because of routine station operations like spacewalks and spacecraft arrivals and departures, it took time to gather enough data to characterize those measurements. That rate has slightly increased, so the teams are working a plan to isolate, identify, and potentially repair the source. The leak is still within segment specifications and presents no immediate danger to the crew or the space station.”
NASA announced on August 20, 2020, that the ISS has been leaking since September 2019! In fact, it leaks all the time, but not enough to warrant concern or repairs. That was the case with the depressurization detected in 2019. Besides, they were busy – what with the SpaceX mission, various spacewalks and crews coming and going. However, the leak seemed to get bigger recently, prompting NASA to request the astronauts bunk with the sole cosmonaut for the weekend in the Zvezda service module, which contains all of the life support systems. With the rest of the ISS empty, they can close all of the hatches so NASA and Roscosmos ground personnel can try to isolate where the leak is.
“The U.S. and Russian specialists expect preliminary results should be available for review by the end of next week.”
Perhaps we’ve watched “Apollo 11” too many times during the pandemic shutdown, but this kind of response to an unknown leak in the ISS seems too nonchalant to be true. While the crew is bunking on the Russian side, there seems to be no mention of any possibility the leak is in the current Soyuz capsule docked at the ISS. Nor is there any mention of micrometeorites, human error, sabotage or the like. If you were a crew member, would you be so nonchalant or would you be a screaming chalant maniac clawing your way into the escape module, only to realize it’s the Soyuz capsule?
Let’s hope the crew is truly safe and the ‘leak’ is found and repaired. While they’re living together, maybe cosmonaut Vagner can show the U.S. crew the UFOs he spotted earlier this week.