Using knives and shears, a pair of Russian spacewalkers Tuesday cut samples of material around a mysterious hole in a Soyuz spacecraft docked on the International Space Station that a Moscow official suggested could have been deliberate sabotage.
Roscosmos space agency said the aim was to discover whether the “small but dangerous” hole had been made on Earth or in space.
The two-millimetre cavity on the Soyuz spaceship docked at the ISS caused an air leak detected in August, two months after the craft’s last voyage.
Until Tuesday, astronauts had only been able to examine the hole from inside the spacecraft.
During the seven hour, 45 minute spacewalk, veteran cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergei Prokopyev struggled, but eventually succeeded, in cutting away the insulation covering the hole and taking out a sample to analyse.
What made it especially hard is that the Soyuz spacecraft, unlike the ISS, was not designed to be repaired in spacewalks and has no outside railings for astronauts to hold onto.
“There’s nothing, that’s the problem,” Kononenko said ahead of the outing.
Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said in October that an investigation had ruled out a manufacturing error. He had said earlier that Russia did not exclude “deliberate interference in space.”
Russian media reported the investigation was probing the possibility US astronauts deliberately drilled the hole to get a sick colleague sent back home.
Russian officials later denied those reports.
The discovery of the hole was followed in October by the failure of a manned Soyuz launch, although the Russian and US astronauts returned safely to Earth.
The samples will be sent to Earth to “get at the truth” of the cavity’s origins, the space agency said.
The cosmonauts also took photographs and filmed video, before putting new insulation over the area.
The spacewalk was the fourth for Kononenko and the second for Prokopyev.
Rogozin called the spacewalk “unprecedented in its complexity” on Twitter and Roscosmos said it would “enter the history of space exploration.”
The Soyuz spacecraft is used to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS. The hole is in a section that will not be used for the return journey to Earth on December 20.
The ISS is one of the few areas of Russia-US cooperation that remains unaffected by the slump in relations and Washington’s sanctions.
Trump’s resolve on background checks ‘substantially softened’ after call from NRA’s Wayne LaPierre: NYT
President Donald Trump has reversed his promises to fight for gun control, The New York Times reported Monday.
"Days after a pair of deadly mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, President Trump said he was prepared to endorse what he described as 'very meaningful background checks' that would be possible because of his 'greater influence now over the Senate and over the House,'" the newspaper reported.
"But after discussions with gun rights advocates during his two-week working vacation in Bedminster, N.J. — including talks with Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive of the National Rifle Association — Mr. Trump’s resolve appears to have substantially softened, and he has reverted to reiterating the conservative positions on the gun issue he has espoused since the 2016 campaign," The Times reported.
Trump’s racist attacks on ‘The Squad’ were the final straw for Anthony Scaramucci
Donald Trump's racist attacks members of The Squad were what drove him to fight against the president's 2020 re-election.
The Squad is made up of four first-term women of color in Congress, including Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).
Scaramucci made the admission in a new Washington Post op-ed.
‘Not true at all’: CNN’s fact-checker says even the professor Trump cited on Google election fraud says president is lying
On Monday's edition of CNN's "Cuomo Prime Time," fact-checker Daniel Dale told host Chris Cuomo that not only is President Donald Trump's claim that Google threw over 2.6 million votes to Hillary Clinton a lie, the professor he's citing, Robert Epstein, has repudiated Trump's interpretation of it.
"It's not true at all," said Dale. "I spoke to the author of this study ... There are various questions about the quality of the study, but even the study's author says that the president didn't describe the study correctly. What the study's author says is he has no evidence that anything was manipulated, search results or votes themselves. What he says, and this is disputed, is that Google's search results showed bias during the 2016 election."