12 December 2018
by Marciae Dunn, The Associated Press
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida – Space astronauts ripped through dense isolation on the capsule hooked to the International Space Station on Tuesday, looking for evidence of a mysterious pierced hole that drained valuable air in the cabin four months ago.
The Russians Sergey Prokopiev and Oleg Cotnison noticed the small hole in the outer shell of the Soyuz capsule, more than five hours in his tiresome spaceport.
"It's just the hole we're looking for, guys," broadcasts Russian mission control outside of Moscow.
Space observers said they did not see any drill marks around the black dot, as well as inside.
In August, the crew of the station pushed the hole in the Soyuz capsule, plugging it in with epoxy and gauze. Russian space officials wanted the site to be explored before the capsule returns to Earth next week with Prokopiev and two others. This part of the capsule will be discarded as usual before re-entry into the atmosphere and therefore does not pose a risk of falling down.
Prokopiev and Kononenko had to use telescopic booms to reach Soyuz. It took almost four hours to reach them at about 100 feet (30 meters). Then isolation turned out to be more difficult to remove than expected by making another one to two hours of effort.
To expose the outer shell, they cut off a 10-inch (25-cm) heat-insulation pattern and debris shield. Fragments of broken silver insulation turned away like confetti as they were cut with a knife and long knives. Astronauts collected samples of the black epoxy sealant coming out of the hole, only one tenth of an inch (2 millimeters).
Their space flight lasted almost eight hours. "Time to go home," said Controller.
"It was very difficult … but we did it," said one of the astronauts.
NASA said the pieces of isolated isolation did not pose a threat to the space station and would probably burn in the atmosphere for about a day.
The leak of the capsule sparked a critical line between the US and the Russian space agencies after its launch at the end of August. Russian space director Dmitry Rogozin noted that the hole could be pierced during production – or in orbit. The space station commander at that time categorically denied any unlawful action by himself or his crew.
Since then Rogozin has accused his statement, accusing the media of having mastered their words.
According to Rogozin, the Russian investigation continues and the samples collected during the space expense will be returned to Earth in Soyuz. The findings in space will lead to better repair techniques in the future, officials said.
Soyuz is scheduled to leave the Orbital Laboratory on December 19 in the US with Prokopiev, American Serena Aung-chanceller and German Alexander Gerst, the current station captain. She transferred them in June.
Remaining aboard the high 250 kilometers (400 kilometers) for the next six months, it will be American, Russian and Canadian, who arrived last week.
It was the 213-year space flight for 20 years at the space station.
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