Russian spacewalkers cut samples around mystery hole at space station

Russian spacewalkers cut samples around mystery hole at space station

"Let's not rush. Let us proceed step by step to put the kibosh on anything", said Kononenko during the Live broadcast.

You need steady hands when you're hurtling around the Earth at 27,000 kilometres per hour in a pressurised spacesuit holding a knife and hacking a hole in a Soyuz capsule 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.

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 crew aboard the space station has, since the leak was discovered and repaired, conducted frequent leak detection work and pressure measurements to make sure that the leak stayed sealed and the pressure on the space station remained normal.

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

Kononenko and Prokofyev did not have time to perform two scientific operations outside the ISS. As he vigorously cut into the spacecraft, small bits of insulation floated off into space.

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The hole was in the orbital module, also known as the habitation module - one of three modules on the Soyuz vehicle. The extravehicular activity (EVA) was the 213th spacewalk in support of assembly and maintenance in the 20-year history of the space station. Prokopyev now has spent 15 hours and 31 minutes on EVA.

"That is exactly the hole we've been looking for, guys", radioed Russian Mission Control outside Moscow.

The hole had to be examined in space, because it was located in the section of the spacecraft that would separate during the reentry and burn in the atmosphere, making further investigation impossible. The astronauts use it to Dock with the ISS and went into the Station.

This was Kononenko's fourth EVA and Prokopyev's second.

And because this particular module of the capsule will split off and burn up on re-entry back to Earth, they wanted to analyse their fix job from the outside and scrape off some samples of the epoxy to return to Earth and study.

The Soyuz is scheduled to depart the orbiting lab on December 19, USA time, with Prokopyev, American Serena Aunon-Chancellor and German Alexander Gerst, the station's current skipper.

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