Russian investigators looking into the origin of a mysterious hole that caused an oxygen leak on the International Space Station have said it was caused deliberately, the space agency chief said.
A first commission had delivered its report, Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space agency Roskosmos, said in televised remarks late Monday.
“It concluded that a manufacturing defect had been ruled out which is important to establish the truth.”
Rogozin said the commission’s main line of inquiry was that the hole had been drilled deliberately, a position that has been voiced in the past.
“Where it was made will be established by a second commission, which is at work now,” he said.
The small hole in the wall of a Russian-made Soyuz space capsule docked onto the ISS was located in August and quickly sealed up. Officials have suggested a number of possible reasons for the appearance of the hole.
A top government official has denied a Russian media report that the investigation looked at the possibility that U.S. astronauts had drilled the hole in order to get a sick colleague sent back to Earth.
The current ISS commander, U.S. astronaut Drew Feustel, called the suggestion that the crew was somehow involved “embarrassing.”
Rogozin — who previously oversaw the space industry as deputy prime minister — was appointed head of Roskosmos last May, in a move analysts said would spell trouble for the embattled sector.
The official, who was placed under U.S. sanctions over the Ukraine crisis in 2014, admitted it had become difficult to work with NASA.
“Problems with NASA have certainly appeared but not through the fault of NASA,” he said, blaming unnamed American officials for telling the US space agency what to do.
He also claimed that SpaceX founder Elon Musk sought to squeeze Russia out of the space launch services market and complained about the U.S. military drone X-37.
“Americans have this thing, the X-37,” Rogozin said. “We don’t understand its purposes. Rather, we do understand, but we have not received an official explanation. “Essentially, this thing can be used as a weapons carrier.”
Social Media Versions
Despite the previous official denial and astronaut’s statements, posts continue to circulate on Russian social media “explaining” what exactly happened on the ISS.
According to one version shared on Live Journal, What’s App and Facebook, it was NASA astronauts who drilled the hole to force an emergency evacuation.
The anonymous author of the post cites a friend who had worked in the Russian space industry and is now retired. His source in the so-called Star City, an area in Moscow Oblast, which has been home to the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, provided a detailed account as to what transpired aboard the ISS.
Allegedly, one of the U.S. crew members has displayed emotional and psychological issues that have been getting progressively worse, forcing the team to consider evacuation due to constant fights.
However, after such request was submitted, NASA made it clear it would not pay to send another Soyuz – an extra unplanned “trip” would reportedly cost some $85 million.
The whole situation transpired against a backdrop of deteriorating living conditions in the U.S. module of the station. Allegedly, the toilet malfunctioned, and the entire U.S. team and the German astronaut have been forced to use diapers. Due to an unexplained incident, they have not been allowed to use the second toilet located in the Russian part of the station.
The storage capacity of the station is limited, and the diapers have been improperly disposed of, which has created yet another level of issues related to the smell.
All these problems combined have reportedly forced the astronauts to develop a plan that would force the evacuation of both astronauts and cosmonauts. While the cosmonauts were conducting some work in the outer space, a hole got drilled in the Russian part of the ISS.
After the hole was discovered, Russian space authorities have reportedly requested information on the mental assessment of the astronauts and video footage from the American module of the ISS. The probe to establish exactly what happened is still ongoing.