Last week, astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) were forced to confront their worst nightmare after they noticed a drop in the cabin pressure owing to a hole in the space station.
Both NASA and flight controllers initially determined that there was no immediate danger to the space station as the rest of the crewmembers were asleep at the time. However, one hour later, NASA astronaut Drew Feustel grew concerned over the leak after which they went back and forth with space agencies of both countries on how to stop the leak.
Crewmembers traced the leak to a 2-millimetre wide hole on one of the two Russian Soyuz spacecraft that are currently docked at the ISS. After they found the leak, one of the astronauts put his thumb on the hole before temporarily slowing the leak by patching it up with Kapton tape.
According to Russian space officials, the puncture was caused by a micrometeorite collision. Dmitry Rogozin, the Russian space agency chief, told news agencies,
“Overnight and in the morning there was an abnormal situation – a pressure drop, an oxygen leak at the station. A micro-fracture was found, most likely it is damage from the outside.”
Yesterday showed again how valuable our emergency training is. We could locate and stop a small leak in our Soyuz, thanks to great cooperation between the crew and control centres on several continents. pic.twitter.com/Jo0MnIIprL
— Alexander Gerst (@Astro_Alex) August 31, 2018
According to NASA, the hole has been patched up and there is no immediate need to get the astronauts back on Earth as there are weeks of oxygen reserves left on the ISS. However, this wasn’t the first time that astronauts were forced to face depressurization. In 2007, they dealt with a leak in the station’s Harmony module in the US section.