Russian Cosmonauts Take Samples on 6th Hour of Spacewalk to Crack Mystery

Two Russian cosmonauts have taken samples of their capsule's exterior in the sixth hour of a spacewalk seeking to resolve the mystery of a small hole found in the craft docked at the International Space Station, a live broadcast by Russian space agency Roscosmos showed early on Wednesday.

The hole, which was patched from the inside the station, was exposed and inspected by Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev, both Expedition 57 flight engineers, during a December 11, 2018 spacewalk.

Bits of shredded silver insulation floated away like confetti, as the two slashed at it with a knife and long cutters.

The Soyuz capsule had been used to deliver a new crew to the laboratory 400km (250 miles) above the Earth in June.

The hole was discovered after crew members traced an air leak that was causing the minor loss of pressure on the ISS.

Unlike the ISS, the spacecraft is not created to be repaired in space and has no railings or anything to cling on to from the outside. The damage was apparently patched before the Soyuz actually launched into space, and it wasn't until it was attached to the space station that the makeshift repairs broke loose and started leaking.

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A Russian investigation is ongoing, according to Rogozin, and samples collected during the spacewalk will be returned to Earth on the Soyuz.

The spacewalkers reported seeing no drill marks around the black dot, like on the inside.

But as they've investigated the hole in the Soyuz capsule, astronauts can't figure out what created it.

The spacewalk will be the fourth of Kononenko's career and he'll be wear a spacesuit with red stripes on this journey, while Prokopyev will bear blue stripes for his second spacewalk. But Russian officials stated a few days after the hole was discovered that, based on its shape, it looked to have been drilled. He also has a blog about the International Space Station, called Orbital Velocity. Kononenko has now logged a total of 26 hours and 12 minutes working in the vacuum of space, including a 2008 spacewalk when he performed similar work to what he did on today, cutting into the insulation covering the Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft to remove a pyrotechnic device.

Soyuz MS-09 is set to depart the space station with Prokopyev, Gerst and Aunon-Chancellor at 8:42 p.m. EST Dec. 19 (01:42 GMT Dec. 20).

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