The most mysterious history of the current Russian astronautics will remain a secret a year later.
At least for the general public, because Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, has already found out how or who bore one of their Soyuz ships.
The head of the corporation, Dimitri Rogozin, said last Wednesday to those attending the Orbit of Youth scientific conference that their technicians and researchers already know what happened on August 29, 2018, 400 kilometers above Earth, in the International Space Station (ISS).
That day, the Earth Control Center noticed that the station was suffering a small air leak. It was not an immediate threat, as the pressure was reduced every hour by 0.8 millimeters of mercury. But at that rate the ISS would run out of air in 18 days.
Warned, the crew discovered the reason for the leak: a tiny two-millimeter hole in the lining of the Russian Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft, which it had transported in June to Expedition 56 of the ISS. “We take samples of everything and now everything is clear to us,” Rogozin said.
Exciting. Those attending the symposium were going to know first hand the origin of the mystery. A sabotage? A human error?
But Rogozin is not willing to reveal anything about an issue that, in one way or another, could leave those responsible for the Russian space program very bad. So he decided to circumvent the slippery questions that could arise while maintaining the mystery.
“But we are not going to tell you anything,” the official said to disappoint the audience. “Understand that we must keep some kind of secret,” he added by way of justification.
After locating the leak in the Soyuz, the crew proceeded to seal it and the pressure in the IAS normalized.
The first explanations of the experts of Roscosmos pointed to the impact of a micro-meteoroid or a piece of space junk. But there were scrapes around the hole in the photographs sent by the astronauts, indicating that someone tried to drill the ship on purpose.
The ex-astronaut and deputy Maxim Suráiev suggested that the fault could have been caused by one of the crew members with psychological problems who wanted to return home.
Other specialists said that making this type of hole in weightlessness is very complicated and that sabotage would have been executed on land.
A source from the Tass agency suggested that it was a mistake by a technician who covered the hole, but when the space arrived the plug came off.
Rogozin promised to clarify what happened and formed an ad hoc commission . For the corporation Energuia, builder of the Soyuz, it is a matter of honor to discover what happened, he argued then.
In December, astronauts examined the ship from the outside, and discovered that there was a substance similar to a sealant. In March, Rogozin promised to inform Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It is not known if he did. What he did not do is inform the general public. Russia has decided to cover this black hole with mystery. Not surprisingly, this issue significantly hurt Roscosmos’s reputation.
Since NASA withdrew its ferries, in 2011, the only way to travel to the ISS is to rent the Russian modules. But this matter even threatened to threaten the relationship with the US agency when the Kommersant newspaper published that the commission suspected American astronauts.
Space is the only area of importance in which Russia and the US they maintain cooperation in a few years where relations have returned to cold war levels.