According to the Russian state-run press, Russian astronauts have completed their repair work on the ISS module Zvezda and are about to seal the module to test their work.
“The crew of the International Space Station has completed the repair and recovery work on the hull of the Zvezda module. In the coming days, Sergei Ryzhikov and Sergei Kud-Sverchkov will close the hatches in the Zvezda module to check the atmospheric level,” the press office said.
Previous reports suggested the astronauts had located a total of two cracks, both now sealed.
The larger question however remains. Are the cracks stress fractures, and if so do they suggest that Zvezda’s 20-year-old hull is beginning to fail? The Russians have been very silent about these questions, though they have admitted the possibility once or twice, almost as an aside.
Nor has NASA been forthcoming. The American space agency has apparently joined the Russians in keeping this problem out of the news, at all costs. Once, the employees at NASA were Americans who demanded openness from Russia and from themselves. No more. Increasingly our government workers are indistinguishable from Soviet apparatchiks, whose main goal was to protect the government from bad press.
If Zvezda’s hull is failing then ISS faces some very serious engineering issues. They can be solved, but not by silence and sticking one’s head in the sand.
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