International Space Station air leak likely sabotage, claims head of Roscosmos

5 Sep 2018

Image: NASA

The head of Russia’s space agency has made an alarming claim that a hole found in the hull of the International Space Station was the result of sabotage.

With hundreds and thousands of tiny, bullet-like space debris whizzing around the Earth each day, the International Space Station (ISS) is usually prepared for an unexpected strike.

However, the discovery last week of a small rip in the fabric of the station’s Russian capsule, which was leaking precious oxygen, was an altogether more serious problem.

Acting fast, the astronauts on board the ISS repaired the hole using sealant and cloth; in the meantime, European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst reportedly put his finger over the hole as a desperate measure.

While the astronauts are breathing a sigh of relief, The Guardian is reporting an astounding claim made by Dmitry Rogozin, head of Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos.

In a statement, contradicting his previous announcement that it was likely the cause of a micrometeorite, Rogozin claimed the hole was created on purpose with a drill by someone with a “wavering hand”.

He questioned: “What is this, a production defect or some premeditated actions?

“We are checking the Earth version. But there is another version that we do not rule out: deliberate interference in space.”

Theories abound

Rogozin added that a state commission will now be trying to find exactly who or what created the hole. Meanwhile, NASA has not specifically commented on the matter, saying any investigation will be undertaken by Roscosmos.

An initial theory put forward by former Russian cosmonaut and current politician Maksim Surayev suggested that the hole could have been drilled by someone on board who wanted to go home early. However, this idea has been doubted based on claims it would be impossible to drill such a hole in that part of the station in zero gravity.

Speaking with the TASS state news agency, a source inside the space industry said that if it were the result of a drill, it could have occurred after the initial safety check at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Speculating, the source said that someone could have panicked and sealed up the hole, only for it to disintegrate in the rigours of space.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic