Russians accuse American astronaut of drilling hole in Soyuz

In several articles published today in the state-run Russian press, the Russians made the accusation that the hole and drilling damage that had been found on an in-orbit Soyuz capsule was put there by an American astronaut.

The first link above notes that while the Russians took a lie detector test, showing they didn’t drill the hole, the Americans refused. A second TASS link argues that their investigation proves that all the drill damage had to been done in orbit, for two reasons. First, they always test the capsule’s intergrity in a vacuum chamber before launch, and would have discovered it then. Second, the nature of the drill damage suggests it was done in zero gravity.

A third link provides an English translation of the more detailed Russian report, which made this direct accusation:

Firstly, the illness of the female astronaut, which is the first known incident of deep vein thrombosis in orbit, and the fact that Serena Maria Auñón-Chancellor had suffered the condition was published in a scientific article only after she had returned to Earth. This could have provoked ‘an acute psychological crisis’, which could have led to attempts by various means to speed up her return to the planet, according to my anonymous source. Secondly, for some reason unknown to Roscosmos, the video camera at the junction of the Russian and American segments was not working at that time. Thirdly, the Americans refused to perform a polygraph examination, while the Russian cosmonauts were polygraphed. Fourthly, Russia never had an opportunity to study the tools and the drill which are aboard the ISS to see if there are any signs of metal shavings from the hull of our ship’s orbital module.

This longer article also makes the claim that, because of the location of some of the drill attempts, whoever did drilling had no knowledge of the Soyuz’s construction.

All this may be true, but it conveniently ignores several very important facts: The one successful drillhole that caused the leak had been patched, which would have prevented any leak during the vacuum tests on the ground. The leak occurred because the patch was not designed to survive the hostile environment of space and eventually failed.

Also, the Russians’ own investigation had found that there was plenty of time on the ground for this sabotage to have occurred, so saying it had to have happened in space is incorrect.

Finally, the claim that the drill damage had to have been done in zero gravity is pure opinion, and hardly evidence.

In other words, it sounds as if the Russians are trying to shift blame from themselves (and an unknown ground worker) to an American astronaut. It is certainly possible that their claims are true, but they seem incredibly implausible. Much more likely would be sabotage on the ground by a very disgruntled Russian worker, routinely underpaid and resentful of the corruption that permeates Roscosmos and all of Russian society.

Such a conclusion however would be beyond embarrassing for the Putin government and the head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin. It is far better to place the blame on an American, especially because the end of the U.S.-Russian partnership on ISS is only a few years away.

Bridenstine will ask Russia for explanation about drill hole

NASA’s administrator Jim Bridenstine, when asked by journalists about the decision by Russia to keep secret the origins of the drill hole in a Soyuz capsule that caused a leak on ISS, said he will politely beg Russia for some answers.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine vowed Thursday to speak to the head of the Russian space agency after reports that the cause of a hole found on the International Space Station last year would be kept secret.

But he was careful to point out that he doesn’t want this situation to destroy the country’s relationship with Russia, a partner in space since 1975. “They have not told me anything,” Bridenstine told the Houston Chronicle during a question and answer session at a Houston energy conference. “I don’t want to let one item set (the relationship) back, but it is clearly not acceptable that there are holes in the International Space Station.”

Sure, let’s not offend those Russians so we can keep flying Americans on their capsules, even though they won’t tell us who drilled a hole in a Soyuz capsule prior to launch, then patched it badly so that it began leaking after a few months in space.

This kind of logic could only make sense in Washington government circles.

Roscosmos knows but will not disclose cause of Soyuz drilled hole

According to a statement by Dmitri Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, the Russians now know what or who caused the drillhole in a Soyuz capsule, found when air began to leak from ISS in August 2018, but they will not reveal that information.

What happened is clear to us, but we won’t tell you anything”, Rogozin said at a meeting with the participants of a scientific youth conference. … We may have some secrets”, he said.

I wonder if NASA will accept this decision. I also wonder why this doesn’t raise the hackles of NASA’s safety panel, which seems so willing to stall the launch of American manned capsules for far less worrisome safety reasons, thus forcing us to use Russia’s Soyuz capsule instead.