Leak on the ISS: Russia threatens US astronaut with charges

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The Russian space agency Roskosmos threatens a US astronaut with charges and accuses her of drilling a hole in the Soyuz MS-09 space capsule three years ago. This is reported by ArsTechnica, citing Russian media reports.

The US magazine had previously quoted “unfounded rumors” from Russia that the Serena Auñón-Chancellor is said to have drilled the hole to force a return to Earth. NASA firmly rejected this, and the head of the US space agency spoke of attacks without any credibility. At NASA, based on air pressure measurements, it has been known since 2018 when exactly the leak occurred and where each member of the ISS crew was at that point in time. No US astronaut and no US astronaut was near the Russian segment.

While the small leak was provisionally sealed in autumn 2018 and Alexander Gerst, among others, returned to earth with the space capsule, Russian authorities carried out an investigation. The general suspicion was that the hole drilled from the inside was the result of an accident during the construction of the space capsule. Instead of reporting the incident, a worker could have taped up the hole. In the cold of space, the glue could have shrunk and eventually pushed out by the internal pressure of the space station. From Russia, however, other theories were repeatedly heard, and Serena Auñón-Chancellor was named as the alleged culprit. The American had suffered a venous thrombosis on the ISS and treated herself. From Russia it is said that this resulted in an “acute psychological crisis”.

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The Russian news agency had a detailed listing of the alleged evidence that Auñón-Chancellor should have drilled the leak Tass released in mid-August – a few weeks after the much criticized, completely unsuccessful docking maneuver of a Russian research module on the ISS. Accordingly, a surveillance camera did not work at the time in question in August 2018 and the US crew did not undergo a polygraph test afterwards. On earth, the damage, as it was found, could not have occurred. It is unclear whether these details are also included in the investigation report. That has now gone to the law enforcement authoritieswho would have to decide whether to bring charges. In any case, the procedure should not contribute to easing the tension between the USA and Russia.


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